These days, hiring a new chauffeur is not easy. Between attracting applicants with the right qualifications amid the current nationwide driver shortage and finding reliable candidates who will represent your luxury ground transportation company well, the task of putting someone behind the wheel of one of your vehicles is a difficult and time-consuming one (not that it’s ever been easy).
Unfortunately, some limousine operators rush the hiring process and overlook some steps simply to satisfy company demands. Yet, this is not the time to cut corners and hope for the best. Taking shortcuts when it comes to driver hiring can have serious consequences, including heavy fines and penalties, particularly if your operation requires chauffeurs to possess a commercial drivers’ license (CDL). It could also lead to tragic accidents and costly lawsuits if the driver isn’t properly vetted and trained. And, in today’s world where news travels so fast and so far, one incident can shatter a company’s reputation and lead to business closure in the blink of an eye.
As a motor carrier, you have control over who is operating your vehicles, and you need to take the responsibility of hiring safe chauffeurs very seriously. After all, your bottom line and the future of your business depend on the drivers you hire and the decisions they make while on the road.
So how do you make sure you’re hiring the right chauffeurs? You can help ensure that your chauffeur hiring process is up to par by addressing two essential points: compliance and consistency. While the compliance standards that follow relate to the hiring of CDL drivers, these guidelines should be used as a template when bringing aboard ANY chauffeur. In addition to helping minimize risks on the road, the benefit of a careful assessment of non-CDL applicants is the potential to move them up to a CDL level after they obtain the necessary permit, training, and experience, essentially creating your own chauffeur hiring pool.
Every chauffeur considered for hire must be carefully scrutinized to ensure they meet Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations. The general qualifications of drivers are listed in §391.11. Motor carriers that hire commercially licensed drivers must follow the minimum screening requirements outlined in §391.23: Investigation and inquiries. This investigation currently includes, but is not limited to:
- A review of the chauffeur’s motor vehicle record (MVR) during the preceding three years
- An inquiry to previous employers regarding the chauffeur’s safety performance history and drug/alcohol violation history for the preceding three years, along with a full query pre-employment screening in FMCSA’s Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse
- Pre-employment testing for controlled substances (see §382.301 and 49 CFR Part 40).
- A road test (§391.31) or equivalent (§391.33)
- Proof of medical fitness to drive a commercial motor vehicle—Medical Examiner’s Certificate and Skill Performance Evaluation (SPE) Certificate, if applicable (Part 391 Subpart E)
There is another search, however, that digs deeper into commercial driver histories and can measurably strengthen your company’s safety—FMCSA’s Pre-Employment Screening Program (PSP). A PSP record contains a commercial driver’s most recent five years of crash data and three years of roadside inspection history from the agency’s Motor Carrier Management Information System (MCMIS). The PSP enables employers to make better-informed hiring decisions, which lead to improved commercial motor vehicle safety. In fact, motor carriers using PSP to screen new hires lower their crash rate on average by 8 percent and driver out-of-service rates by 17 percent compared to those that do not use PSP.
In addition to federal requirements, you must also be familiar with your state’s regulations regarding the hiring process. Employment laws and rules that relate to human resource management vary state to state, and you need to ensure that those regulations are followed accordingly. You may consult your State Labor Office for more information.
Furthermore, you should consider conducting additional background checks to screen applicants for a history of criminal activity, violence, and fraud. Employers that do so may help protect themselves from potential litigation resulting from negligent hiring.
Importantly, don’t forget to examine the Driver Employment Application. All of the investigations and inquiries you conduct will either validate the information provided by the chauffeur candidate on the application, or identify discrepancies and possible falsification. Be sure that the application is completed in its entirety, legible, and signed as well so that it complies with federal regulations (see §391.21 Application for employment).
It’s also necessary to regularly review state and federal regulations, and check them against your internal hiring process. You should make sure that any employees involved in the hiring of chauffeurs are properly trained in your company’s procedures, and that all guidelines are being strictly followed. Moreover, keep in mind that if any revisions are made to your company’s procedures, those changes need to be thoroughly communicated to everyone involved.
The second point that companies must address regarding their chauffeur hiring process is that internal hiring guidelines and procedures need to be administered consistently to each and every applicant without prejudice toward color, race, religion, gender, or any other criteria considered unlawful by state, federal, or local laws. All of the hiring steps should be in writing, and present a clear picture of a uniformly administered and regulatory-compliant hiring process. Failure to do so may become a significant issue in a lawsuit. Consistency also plays an important role when it comes to handling human resource issues and discrimination complaints.
Today, there’s a need to place more drivers in commercial vehicles than ever before; however, that doesn’t mean it’s okay to take shortcuts when it comes to chauffeur hiring.
While finding the right chauffeur can be a time-consuming task, only a complete, regulatory-compliant, uniformly administered driver hiring process can help ensure your operation is getting the safest, most knowledgeable employees to drive your vehicles. And, by doing so, you stand a much better chance of keeping your transportation company in business for many years to come. [CD1021]
Bob Crescenzo is the Vice President for safety & loss control of Lancer Insurance Company in Long Beach, N.Y. He can be reached at email@example.com.