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CDL Background Check: What You Need to Know

CDL Background Check: What You Need to Know
February 8, 2023

Driving commercial vehicles opens up employment opportunities for many people. In the United States, there is an ever-growing demand for people with CDLs (Commercial Driver's Licenses), and like with other employment opportunities, those who apply for CDL driving jobs need to undergo a background check. 


Here we will explain what is a CDL background check, and what you need to know before you undergo the check.

First of All: What is a CDL?

A CDL is a special type of driver's license that is required for individuals who operate commercial motor vehicles, such as tractor-trailers, buses, and large trucks. 


In order to obtain a CDL, an individual must first meet the eligibility requirements, which typically include having a regular driver's license, being at least 21 years old, and having a clean driving record.

After meeting these requirements, the individual must then pass a series of written and skills tests, which are designed to assess their knowledge of safe driving practices, as well as their ability to safely operate a commercial motor vehicle. 


The written tests cover topics such as traffic laws, safety regulations, and vehicle maintenance, while the skills tests evaluate the individual's ability to perform tasks such as pre-trip inspections, coupling and uncoupling a trailer, and backing up the vehicle.


a man holding a CDL license while standing next to a truck

In addition to passing these tests, individuals who hold a CDL are subject to stricter regulations and penalties than regular drivers, as they are operating vehicles that are much larger and more complex. 


This includes restrictions on the number of hours they can drive in a day, and mandatory drug and alcohol testing.

Types of CDL Licenses in the United States

In the United States, there are several types of CDL (commercial driver's license) licenses, including:

• Class A CDL: allows the holder to operate tractor-trailers, large trucks, and other heavy vehicles.

• Class B CDL: permits the operation of smaller commercial vehicles, such as straight trucks and buses.

• Class C CDL: required for drivers operating vehicles designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver, or vehicles carrying hazardous materials in small quantities.

Additionally, endorsements can be added to a CDL, such as:

• HAZMAT (hazardous materials) endorsement
• Doubles/Triples endorsement
• Tanker endorsement
• Passenger endorsement
• School Bus endorsement
• Air Brake restriction removal endorsement

What is a CDL Background Check?

Certainly! A CDL (commercial driver's license) background check is a comprehensive evaluation of an individual's driving and criminal history, designed to assess their suitability for operating commercial vehicles. 


The purpose of the background check is to ensure that only individuals with a safe and responsible driving record are issued a CDL, as commercial drivers have a significant responsibility for the safety of themselves, other drivers, and passengers, as well as the general public.


a man's hands on a truck driving wheel

The CDL background check for drivers typically includes several key components, such as:

Driving record review: This involves checking the individual's driving history, including any previous traffic violations, accidents, and suspensions or revocations of their driver's license. This information is used to determine if the individual has a pattern of unsafe driving behavior.

Criminal history check: This step involves a search of local, state, and national criminal databases to identify any criminal convictions, such as DUI, reckless driving, or other offenses that could impact the individual's ability to safely operate a commercial vehicle.

Employment and education verification: The background check may also verify the individual's employment history and educational background, which can provide insight into their work and life experience.

Identity verification: A verification of the applicant's identity, including a Social Security number check.

CDL Background Check for Drivers: The Process

When employers are looking to hire a Commercial Driver's License (CDL) holder, they often conduct a background check to ensure the driver is reliable and qualified. 


The background check process typically involves obtaining a copy of the driver’s CDL, verifying the driver’s employment history, reviewing the driver’s past driving record, and checking for any criminal history.

The CDL background check process starts when the employer requests documents from the driver that proves his or her identity and qualifications. 


This includes a copy of the CDL, a copy of a valid medical certificate, and documents that prove the driver’s eligibility to work in the United States.

The employer may also request documents that show the driver’s employment history, such as resumes, references from previous employers, and official transcripts. 


a man standing next to a truck while holding the door handle


This helps the employer get a better understanding of the driver’s experience and qualifications.

The employer will then review the driver’s driving record with the Department of Transportation to check for any traffic violations or incidents. This will help them determine if the driver is fit to drive commercial vehicles.

The employer may also conduct a criminal background check to make sure the driver does not have any criminal history that could pose a risk to the company. 


This is typically done by requesting a copy of the driver’s criminal record from the state’s department of public safety.

Once the employer has gathered all the necessary documents and reviews them, they can make a decision on whether to hire the driver. 


This process helps to ensure the driver is qualified, experienced, and has a clean driving and criminal record.

What Shoes Up on a CDL Background Check?

A Commercial Driver's License (CDL) background check is a thorough review of the driver's driving history, including any traffic violations, moving violations, and incidents reported to the Department of Transportation (DOT). 


It is essential for trucking companies to run a background check on all prospective drivers, as employers are legally obligated to hire drivers who are in good standing with the DOT. 


The background check should include a criminal records check, drug and alcohol test, employment verification, license verification, and motor vehicle records. 


This ensures that the driver is qualified and experienced to operate a commercial vehicle safely and efficiently, helping to prevent any potential accidents or issues on the road. 


an illustration of a taxi driver's license

How Should You Prepare for a CDL Background Check?

Preparing for a CDL background check can look different depending on the company and the type of job you are applying for. 


Generally, the process can involve supplying your driver's license number, your Social Security number, and a copy of your driving record.

Before the background check for CDL drivers, it is important to review your driving record to ensure it is accurate and up-to-date. 


You may need to update or correct any information on your driving record if it is incorrect. 


Additionally, if any traffic violations or other incidents have been reported, you should contact the appropriate agency to see if there is a way to have them removed or corrected.

It is also important to research the company and job you are applying for to ensure you meet all of their requirements. 


This can involve verifying that you have the necessary certifications, experience, and training. Additionally, many companies require a drug screening and a physical exam, so it is important to be prepared for these.

Finally, it is important to be honest and forthright with your employer. Your background check is an opportunity to demonstrate your honesty and provide an accurate image of your past experiences. 


With open and honest communication, you can ensure a smooth and successful background check process, and get hired for a high-demand job.

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