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Four Reasons the DOT Application May Disappear

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Four Reasons the DOT Application May Disappear

Okay, so we all know 49 CFR 391.21, right? Well if not, that's the piece of U.S. regulation that mandates prospective drivers to complete an employment application. The why behind this application, or rather the results of the application are being questioned. The purpose was to help regulated employers and more specifically to hire quality drivers. But the reality may be unnecessary paperwork with no real insight into driver quality. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is taking steps to possibly remove the requirement.

To be clear, the FMCSA is only discussing the Department of Transportation (DOT) application for prospective drivers. It is not talking about changing or removing any background screening requirements. That means regulated employers in the trucking industry will still be required to verify previous employment information, check accident history and do the regular diligence around drug and alcohol abuse.

Four Reasons Why the DOT Application may disappear:

  1. Industry Burden
  2. Paperwork Reduction
  3. Atypical in DOT
  4. Does Not Determine Driver Quality


1. Industry Burden

The FMCSA's questions seem to target the duplicative & redundant nature of the process. Since regulated employers are still required to do background checks, much of the information documented in the DOT application is repetitive in nature.

2. Paperwork Reduction

The Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 is cited by the FMCSA in their advance notice of proposed rule-making document. There's no question that this regulation increases the amount of paperwork for all stakeholders: drivers, employers, and government bureaucrats.

3. Atypical in DOT

Neither the Federal Aviation Administration nor the Federal Railroad Administration require an application of this sort, so it is unclear why the FMCSA should go above and beyond common practice throughout the DOT.

4. Does Not Determine Driver Quality

This one is pretty straightforward. There's a lot more that goes into the quality of a human being than the long form questions asked in the DOT application. Physical ability to chain up a rig or back a trailer into a tight spot without damage goes completely overlooked here. With other requirements around employment verification and accident history, there's not much left for the DOT application to cover when it comes to quality in this form of documentation.


But the DOT application is still in play. In fact, if people don't comment and help the FMCSA figure out how better to regulate, little to nothing will change. These reasons four reasons are why the DOT application may be under review for change but by no means a guarantee that change will occur. Voice your opinions to the FMCSA and help reduce wasted resources in the trucking industry.

For your convenience, we have shared the 11 questions to which the FMCSA is seeking answers. They shared it in a cumbersome PDF so we figured making them easier to find would be helpful. Let us know what you think in our comments area.

The FMCSA is soliciting comments on 11 questions that give some insight into where they may take things.

  • How would the elimination of 49 CFR 391.21, which includes the requirement to have prospective drivers complete an employment application, impact a motor carrier’s ability to hire safe drivers?
  • If the requirement in 49 CFR 391.21 for an employment application is not eliminated in its entirety, what elements should be retained to determine the safety performance history of the driver?
  • In the ordinary course of business, would a motor carrier require a prospective driver to prepare an employment application? If so, what (if any) information currently required by § 391.21 would a motor carrier not require a prospective driver to include on the employment application?
  • Is there information required by § 391.21 that a motor carrier or safety official could reasonably find in the motor carrier’s personnel or other files, on government databases, or from other sources that would make the employment application duplicative of that information? If so, what is the information and what are the sources?
  • Knowing there are notification and investigation requirements that would not be removed by changing or eliminating the requirement for an employment application, for example §§ 383.35, 391.23, and 391.53, how would an employer and driver demonstrate compliance with each requirement in the absence of an employment application for both CDL and non-CDL CMV drivers?
  • Is the requirement in § 391.21(b)(11) that drivers provide their employment history operating a CMV that requires a CDL during the prior 10 years when applying to operate such a CMV necessary, obtainable, or burdensome?
  • Are there less burdensome alternatives to an employment application that could provide the necessary 10 years of driver employment history operating a CMV that requires a CDL?
  • Are there alternative methodologies to the 2016 Supporting Statement’s methodology referenced above that would provide a superior estimate of the number of job openings and employment applications submitted to motor carriers?
  • Is the assumption used in the 2016 Supporting Statement that a job opening will result in a motor carrier receiving five employment applications on average reasonable? If not, what would be a better estimate and why? Please provide data if possible.
  • The 2016 Supporting Statement describes the data sources and methodology on page 5 used to estimate the turnover rate for CMV operators. Do they result in a reasonable estimate of the 63 percent turnover rate?
  • Are there any specific impacts of the proposed changes on small motor carriers that the Agency should consider?


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