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Guide To California MVR & Driving Record Checks

Checking an applicant’s California motor vehicle record (MVR) can help you determine whether they’re qualified to drive on the job. For some commercial driving positions, regular MVR checks and ongoing DMV notifications may be required.

Learn more about California driving record checks–what they reveal, why they matter, how to get them, and what laws may affect the background check process.

Safety matters whenever an employee, contractor, or volunteer operates a vehicle for your organization. Before anyone gets behind the wheel, some employers choose to search a candidate’s driving record, also known as a motor vehicle record (MVR). A California MVR reveals basic information about a driver’s qualifications and history: license class and status, accident records, and convictions on driving-related charges such as DUI (driving while intoxicated) or reckless driving. For employers, an MVR can help determine whether a job applicant or employee is legally eligible to drive on the job, as well as gauge if their driving is likely to be safe and insurable.

A California driving record (or California MVR) shows key information about a driver’s licensing, convictions, and accident history. Driving records are maintained through the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and contain the following information:

  • Driver’s license class, status, and endorsements, including whether a license is commercial or noncommercial and if the licensee is eligible to drive a specialized vehicle, such as a school bus or paratransit vehicle.
  • Departmental actions based on “negligent driver points.” A driver may accrue points when they get a ticket, are involved in an accident, or are convicted of a driving-related violation. Departmental actions can range from warning letters to driver’s license suspensions.
  • Convictions going back three, seven, or ten years, depending on the offense.
  • Accidents that have been reported and for which the driver was at least partially at fault.

Using a California MVR to verify drivers license class helps confirm an applicant’s legal eligibility to drive. There are two license types in California: noncommercial and commercial. Noncommercial licenses include: 

  • Basic (Class C)
  • Motorcycle (Class M1 or M2)
  • Travel trailer/fifth wheel (Class A)
  • Housecar/motorhome (Class B)

Additionally, the California DMV issues three classes of commercial driver’s licenses (CDL): Class A, B, and C. Commercial license holders may qualify for additional certificates and endorsements that make them eligible to drive trucks, ambulances, farm labor vehicles, fire trucks, tow trucks or school buses. These certificates and endorsements appear on the driver’s MVR. 

Why You May Need To Check California Driving Records

Employers have many reasons to check a job candidate’s California driving record, from verifying  an applicant’s driver’s license status to learning about serious issues like motor vehicle felonies. Here are some basic reasons an employer may choose to check driving records on applicants and employees:

Safe driving at work: Any employee who operates a vehicle on the job affects workplace safety, customer safety, and public safety–all of which are critically important. Unsafe driving or accidents can also damage your company’s reputation. Not every position requires driving on the job, but for positions that involve commercial driving, driving a company car or van, operating heavy machinery, or driving between worksites, driver safety is an organizational safety issue.

Commercial driving requirements: The US Department of Transportation (DOT) requires organizations conducting interstate commerce to conduct pre-employment and annual employee DOT background checks for all commercial drivers. If your organization conducts interstate commerce and operates commercial trucks, passenger vehicles with a capacity of nine or more passengers, or any vehicle used to transport hazardous materials, you may also be required to follow Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations

Additionally, California employers are required to conduct pre-employment MVR checks for certain commercial driving positions, including bus drivers, truck drivers, paratransit vehicle drivers, ambulance drivers, and cab drivers as part of California Vehicle Code §1808 (more details below). The law also requires employers to enroll in a pull-notice system that provides ongoing reports on a driver’s current public record and any subsequent convictions, failures to appear, accidents, driver’s license suspensions or revocations, or any other actions taken by the DMV. 

Managing risk and insurance: Searching an applicant’s driving history can help you identify and minimize risk. Employee driving records can also affect your ability to get or maintain a commercial insurance policy, especially if on-the-job drivers have a history of traffic violations or accidents. You may determine that an applicant is not qualified for a driving job or, if driving isn’t essential to the position, may elect not to authorize an employee to drive at work.

How To Get An MVR Report In California 

California MVRs are available for permissible use to any member of the public through the California DMV. Individuals may request their own records by submitting a request online, and the DMV will provide a copy, however it is not an official record. To request an official record, an individual must submit the INF 1125 form by mail. 

Employers may request MVRs directly from the California DMV by completing and mailing the INF 70 form. If the DMV provides information in response to a request for information, their privacy policy states they will notify the person whose record was requested. Alternatively, applicants can request their own records from the DMV and provide them to prospective employers for review.

Many employers choose to obtain California MVRs as part of a background check conducted through a consumer reporting agency (CRA), like GoodHire. When employers partner with a CRA for background screenings, including MVR checks, they must comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Compliance requirements include:

California MVR Laws

The following laws regulate how employers—and the public—may access and use California MVRs.

Driver’s Privacy Protection Act 

The federal Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) protects the private information contained in state motor vehicle records from being disclosed to the general public. The law lists 14 allowable exceptions, including employers needing to confirm commercial driver’s licenses and cases in which signed written consent is given for disclosure.

California Vehicle Code

The California Vehicle Code (CVC) requires employers of commercial drivers to conduct California MVRs during the hiring process, obtain current MVRs at least every 12 months, and sign up for the Employer Pull Notice (EPN) program that provides alerts for any new information (such as convictions or suspensions) on the employee’s driving record.

CVC §1808 applies to commercial drivers of the following types of vehicles:

  • Buses
  • Farm labor vehicles
  • School buses
  • Tanks
  • Trailers or double trailers
  • Vehicles carrying hazardous materials
  • Army and California National Guard vehicles
  • Tow trucks
  • Youth buses
  • General paratransit vehicles
  • Ambulances
  • Fire trucks
  • Taxicabs or other vehicles operated by a permitted taxicab company

California Public Records Act

According to the California Public Records Act (Government Code §6253), public records are open to inspection during the office hours of the agency that maintains them. Every person has a right to inspect any public record unless it is exempt from disclosure by express provisions of the law. If some portion of a record is exempted, redacted portions of the record may be made available. Records may also be made available online.

California Investigative Consumer Reporting Agencies Act

California Civil Code §1786.22 – also known as the Investigative Consumer Reporting Agencies Act – states if an investigative consumer reporting agency (California’s term for CRA)  conducts a background check (including a California MVR), the applicant has a right to review their findings. The CRA must make the information available if the applicant takes any of the following steps:

  • Appearing in person and providing the proper identification
  • Requesting the information in writing and with the proper identification by certified mail
  • Submitting a written request for a phone call to review a summary of the findings

The CRA must also provide access to a trained person who can explain the findings and provide a written explanation of any codes used in the report. 

Get A California MVR With GoodHire

GoodHire offers 100+ screening services, including California MVR reports, for comprehensive pre-employment background checks. Our platform is built to optimize speed and accuracy to enable employers to make efficient and informed hiring decisions so they can maintain safety on the job and on the road. Looking to order a California MVR check? Get started with GoodHire.

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The resources provided here are for educational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. We advise you to consult your own counsel if you have legal questions related to your specific practices and compliance with applicable laws.

About the Author

Gayle Sato headshot

Gayle writes about GoodHire’s screening services to inform employers about background check best practices.