Check commercial drivers’ licences frequently

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Licence issues accounted for a large share of driver-related violations during the 2022 Roadcheck inspection blitz. Of the drivers placed out of service for such things, 23.6% had the wrong class of licence, and 5.8% had suspended documents. Another 4.9% had no medical cards.

Employers are responsible for checking the validity and status of licences when drivers are recruited, throughout employment, and before authorizing that person to drive on behalf of the business.

A visual inspection of the licence or the annual driver abstract may not be enough because a driver’s licence status can change at any moment.

millennial-aged truck driver
(Photo: istock)

Typically, most motor carriers check drivers’ licences at least once a year. However, several other factors should be considered when deciding the frequency. A driver’s licence can at any time become invalid, suspended or even downgraded, leaving them unable to drive a commercial motor vehicle (CMV).

Why are licences suspended

There are several reasons this can happen, including:

  • Nonpayment of family support orders;
  • Unpaid fines;
  • Licence changes from province to province;
  • Failure to renew or update medical;
  • Class downgrade;
  • Doctor’s orders; or
  • Criminal Code convictions and impairment.

With these possibilities in mind, it’s a good idea to check licences more than once a year to ensure drivers have not picked up any points or penalties that would bring them close to a suspension or violation.

Questions to ask when checking licences

When compiling a licence-checking strategy, ask the following questions:

  • Drivers – Which drivers present the highest risk?
  • Experience – How many years have they been driving, or what type of experience do they have (tanker, flatbed, small vehicle, etc.)?
  • Accident rate – Have they had many road accidents? If yes, are there any emerging patterns?
  • Training – What training has each driver received, if any? Do they need additional training?
  • Mileage – Does the driver drive on longhaul or shorthaul journeys?
  • Licence history – Have you flagged any other issues with the driver’s licence history?

This list is not exhaustive, but it is a start. You may even need to check licences for potential high-risk drivers as frequently as once a month.

Data protection laws

Motor carriers must receive informed consent from a driver in question before accessing their licence information. That consent also needs to be documented. Failing to ask permission may result in a hefty fine, and failure to document consent could lead to a lack of defense if a driver later reports their employer.

The only real way to do this is to have a robust and documented procedure for driver’s licence checks. This legal obligation also extends to people you contract. If checks are not carried out correctly, then you could directly employ somebody who is not legally entitled to drive. The penalties for doing so can be significant.

Protect your fleet

By conducting driver’s licence checks, companies can protect themselves and their drivers from several business and life-changing consequences. If drivers are not licensed for the correct vehicle class, they will be driving illegally and could invalidate any claims that occur under a motor carrier’s insurance policy.

Be sure to protect the drivers’ personal data, but also ensure you’re not putting the motor carrier at risk. Carrying out regular driver checks is crucial and can shape a company’s risk strategy. In turn, a robust system can ensure due diligence and a better safety culture.

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Mark Samber is JJ Keller’s industry business advisor – Canada.

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  • That is correct Sabrena, when it come to the medical part on the licence and Provincial renewal. Keep in mind this changes with age also.

    However the NSC require Motor Carriers to check drivers abstracts and licence status at a minimum annually under the standards.

  • Pay structure for longhaul drivers is what needs to be looked being paid by the mile is one reason for drivers trying to do trips as fast as possible also unreasonable pickup and dropoff schedules set by employers drivers are under a lot of pressure to be ontime and incident free and the government could force employers and owner operators to put governors on vehicles this should be a mandate with very stiff penalties for non-compliance.

  • Unpaid child support. Taking away a person’s ability to earn a living is really going to help in the payment of delinquent arrears.