September 2008 Transportation Times e-Newsletter

Interviewing and Screening Potential Drivers

Proper Interviewing
One of the most important parts of the hiring process is the interview; yet it is often the most poorly performed part of the entire process. In many cases, the interview is nothing more than rehash of the information that is submitted on the application and the driver agrees that the information is correct. Nothing new has been learned other then the fact that the driver has a good short-term memory. An interview should corroborate the information that the driver submits but it should also serve to clarify any areas of the application that may be in question. Without question, one of the most important qualities of a potential driver evaluated at the interview is the driver’s attitude. A driver with a good attitude will be a safe driver, will treat customers and dispatchers with courtesy, will turn in good paperwork and will have the good of the company at heart. If treated properly, this new hire will become a long-term employee.

In order to determine if a driver has the type of attitude the company requires, a series of questions should be developed that will give the interviewer some insight into this area. Drivers are accustomed to stock questions such as “why did you leave your last job?” and have a stock answer already in mind. The interviewer should have some thoughtful and insightful questions that require some reflection on the part of the applicant. Such questions might include:

  • What did you like the best about your last job?
  • What did you like least about your last job?
  • How do you handle anger when on the road?
  • What is the hardest part of driving for you?
  • What do you expect from this company?
  • What does your spouse think about your job?
  • What is the most important part of your job?

Of course, the list of such questions is endless and the interviewer must find the ones that get the best response from applicants. Once a question has been asked, listen to the answer! Be interested in what the applicant has to say. Do not be anxious to get to the next question as if you have more important things to do. Remember, the way the company treats the driver is the number one concern of most drivers and that treatment starts in the interview. If an answer creates additional questions, don’t be afraid to dig deeper. This is what the interview is all about. Many times, a pause of a few seconds of silence after the driver has answered a question is better than any question that could have been asked. People are uncomfortable with silence and often will attempt to fill it. This may result in additional information that the applicant did not intend to divulge at this time.
Another interview technique is to put the applicant with another driver while the interviewer is doing past employment verification. The applicant may be more open with another driver than with the interviewer. By allowing the applicant to talk to an existing driver and then asking the employed driver for their evaluation, an interviewer cannot only get additional information on the applicant, but has also made an existing employee feel like valuable member of the company team.

Past Employment Verification
DOT requires that all employment in the past three years be verified. Verification can be done via phone, fax or written request. If the phone is used, a record of who has spoken to, their position in the company and a synopsis of what was said must be kept. The telephone is the quickest and most economical way to verify a driver’s background. Unfortunately, some companies will not release the information required without a written release. If this occurs, the request must be mailed or faxed. Often the information can be obtained over the phone if the request is consolidated. For example, “Mr. Smith has applied for a driving job with our company. He says that he drove for you for the last two years. During his time he operated a tractor-trailer throughout the eastern 38 states he states he had no accidents or tickets in that time and that he left voluntarily. Can you verify this for me? This approach allows the company being contacted to either confirm the information or state that it is incorrect. If the follow-up question, “which part is incorrect?” cannot be answered without a written release, it is likely, there is a major discrepancy on the application and that the applicant cannot be considered for employment until it is resolved. “Self-employed,” is not an acceptable past employment history. If the driver was self-employed in a driving position, the company they operated for should be listed and contacted. If the “self-employment” was in another field, tax records or other documentation should be required to verify the time in question.
Gaps in employment should be documented through tax records or other types of documentation. With the current driver shortage, no driver should have gaps in employment except by personal choice. Unexplained gaps may be an attempt to conceal employment that was terminated due to drugs, alcohol, dishonesty or accidents. Drivers should be required to account for all time in the past three years.
Employment with companies that are no longer in business should be verified through tax records.
If written employment verification requests are sent out, a copy of the request along with the date that was sent should be kept in the driver’s qualification file until the completed request form is returned. If the request form is never returned, the photocopy will serve as verification that an attempt to get the information was made.

As indicated in previous chapters, standards should be set for determining what is to be considered an acceptable MVR. DOT requires that a company obtain a copy of the driver’s MVR within 30 days of employment. It is recommended that a copy of the MVR be obtained prior to sending the driver out on the road. Otherwise, there is a risk of finding out the driver’s license is suspended or that the driver has too many tickets to be accepted, all while the driver is several states away under a load. In situations where either driver has recently moved from another state, MVR’s should be obtained from all states where the driver has been licensed in the past three years. With a release form signed by the driver, you can obtain an MVR within 24 to 48 hours through services such as or

All companies should establish a company doctor. This doctor or clinic should be made aware of the DOT physician should be aware of any physical requirements that the trucking company may have. In order to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the trucking company may only make a tentative offer of employment until after the physical examination. The doctor may disqualify the driver for not meeting federal or company physical criteria. It is extremely important for a company doctor to know what the company’s physical requirements are.

Drugs and Alcohol
All drivers must be screened for alcohol and controlled substance usage. While DOT regulations make exceptions for drivers already in an approved drug and alcohol program, it is advisable to have all new hires tested for controlled substances with test results obtained prior to their first dispatch. Additionally, carriers have 14 days from the date of hire to obtain results of all drug and alcohol tests taken during the most recent two years. If the results of these tests are not obtained with in the 14-day period, the driver is disqualified until such time as the results are obtained of the company has documented reasonable efforts to obtain the results.

Road Testing
Although the DOT has determined that a valid CDL may replace the requirement for a road test, the need for road testing has never been greater. Road tests should be designed to evaluate the driver’s skill, driving habits and attitude. In order to do this, the test should encompass both two-lane and four –lane driving in both a rural and an urban setting. The longer the test is the better. Drivers tend to be on their true driving ability and road habits will emerge. Anyone from the company may conduct the test, but it is recommended that the person conducting the test have a thorough knowledge of proper driving techniques and be able to properly evaluate the driver’s performance.

Psychological Testing
There are a number of tests on the market that purport to evaluate a driver. These tests should be considered as another tool to assist in making a decision but should not be relied on exclusively.

The screening process is a lengthy one designed to assure the company that it is getting the best possible driver. In order for it to work properly, the company should keep in mind that the goal is to discover the reason not to hire a driver. It is a process of elimination that is designed to ensure that only well-qualified drivers that fit the needs of the company are selected. If a company consistently hires drivers that do not work out, there is a failure in their hiring process and adjustments must be made. The old saying that we “hire 90 percent of our problems” is very true. A company with a good driver selection process is able to say that they hire solutions to their problems.

Source: Sentry Insurance