California employers may choose to conduct a California driving record check as part of their pre-employment background screening process, and in some cases a California driving record check may be required by law. Motor vehicle reports (MVRs) provide a detailed look into a candidate’s driving history. This guide is designed to help employers understand how to get an MVR in California, what an MVR includes, and how applicable laws may impact driving record checks.
What is a California MVR?
A California driving record, also called a California MVR, is a history of an individual’s driving record in the state of California. Driving records are maintained by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). In some cases, such as with commercial drivers, a MVR in California may be required by law before hiring or on an annual basis.
Under the California Vehicle Code (CVC), described more below, driver’s license and vehicle registration records are available from the DMV by request. Organizations may conduct a CA driving record screening as part of pre-employment background checks where driving safety is a top concern. Employers can choose to look into a candidate’s driving record directly through the DMV or partner with a trusted consumer reporting agency, like Checkr.
What shows up on a California driving record?
California driving records generally include a range of reportable information about a driver and their motor vehicle history, including:
- Driver license information including class, status, and endorsements. For example, a license can be classified as noncommercial or commercial. Endorsements indicate whether the driver is eligible to drive a specialized vehicle, such as a school bus or paratransit vehicle.
- Departmental actions, such as warning letters or license suspensions that accrue from “negligent operator points.” These points are assigned for traffic tickets, collisions, or driving-related violations.
- Driving-related convictions with a look back period of 3, 7, or 10 years, depending on the offense.
- Car accidents, also known as collisions in California, are typically reported on driving records for 3 years from the date of the incident. This includes collisions deemed the fault of the driver and reported by law enforcement and collisions deemed the fault of the driver and reported by the driver or another party if the damage was over $1,000 or it resulted in injury or death. In addition, if the collision involved a commercial vehicle or hazardous materials and was reported to law enforcement, it will remain on the driver’s driving record for 10 years.
Types of California driving licenses
California has two categories of driver’s licenses, noncommercial and commercial, each with several sub-types of licenses as follows:
Noncommerical driving license types:
- Basic (Class C)
- Motorcycle (Class M1 or M2)
- Travel trailer/fifth wheel (Noncommercial Class A)
- Housecar/motorhome (Noncommercial Class B)
Commercial driving license (CDL) types:
- Class A
- Class B
- Class C
Additional commercial certificates and endorsements that allow a driver to operate certain types of vehicles like ambulances, farm labor vehicles, fire trucks, tow trucks or school buses, may also appear on CA driving records.
How to get a driving record in California
Driving records, available through the California DMV, can be requested by individuals, employers, or CRAs. Individuals can request an unofficial copy of their California MVR and print an unofficial copy of their driving record using the online system. Official copies must be requested in person or by mail using the INF 1125 form.
Many employers choose to streamline the process by using a qualified CRA, like Checkr, to obtain MVR checks in California. When background checks are conducted through a CRA, including California driving record screenings, employers must comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). These federal regulations help protect the candidate and ensure proper disclosure of the intent to conduct a background check, require consent in writing, and require the employer to follow the adverse action process if a candidate is not hired due to information that appeared in the check.
In addition, California employers also need to comply with the Investigative Consumer Reporting Agencies Act (ICRAA), which has stricter requirements than the FCRA about what can be included on a candidate’s background check, including an MVR.
Why employers should order California MVR reports
California employers can be required by law or may choose to conduct a California MVR check during the hiring process to help maintain safety and protect brand reputation. Additional reasons for conducting an MVR report in California may include:
Commercial driving requirements
The US Department of Transportation (DOT) requires organizations that conduct interstate commerce to conduct pre-employment and annual employee DOT background checks for all commercial drivers. Organizations that operate certain types of commercial vehicles, such as commercial trucks, vehicles that transport hazardous materials, and passenger vehicles with a capacity for nine or more passengers may also be subject to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations.
Regulated driving positions
California Vehicle Code § 1808 (see law below) requires covered employers to conduct a California MVR check for certain commercial driving positions. These include bus drivers, truck drivers, paratransit vehicle drivers, and taxi drivers. Under this law, covered employers must also sign up for the state’s pull-notice system which alerts employers to changes in a driver’s motor vehicle history on an ongoing basis.
Managing risk and insurance
Conducting a motor vehicle report in California can help employers mitigate risk. Reviewing a candidate’s driving history can help you determine their qualifications and eligibility for the role. Employees with poor driving history, especially on-the-job accidents or traffic violations, may affect your insurance premiums and even your ability to maintain a commercial policy.
California driving record laws to know
There are several California driving record laws that may impact what information is available and how it can be accessed and used by employers.
Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA)
Summary: This federal law is designed to protect private information on motor vehicle records and driver’s licenses from being available to the general public. Under the DPPA, personal information from state motor vehicle records may only be made available for certain permissible uses outlined in the law. The law allows employers to verify information about holders of commercial driver’s licenses. The law also allows businesses to receive motor vehicle information with the written consent of the driver. See law.
California Vehicle Code (CVC) § 1808
Summary: Under this law, California employers of commercial drivers are required to obtain a driving record during the hiring process and conduct regular MVR checks at least every 12 months. Employers must also sign up for the Employer Pull Notice (EPN) program that provides alerts of any new information on an employee’s driving record, such as license suspensions or convictions.
The law applies to employers of commercial drivers that operate a range of vehicles, including: Army and California National Guard vehicles, ambulances, buses, farm labor vehicles, fire trucks, general paratransit vehicles, tanks, taxicabs and other vehicles operated by a permitted taxicab company, trailers or double trails, tow trucks, vehicles carrying hazardous materials, and youth buses. See law.
Public Records Act (Government Code § 6253)
Summary: California public records that are open to inspection can be viewed by any person, unless the record is exempt from disclosure by law. But under the Public Records Act, viewing times are limited to the office hours of the agency that maintains them. Certain records may also be available online. See law.
California Investigative Consumer Reporting Agencies Act (Civil Code § 1786)
Summary: The California Investigative Consumer Reporting Agencies Act (ICRAA), regulates how CRAs – or investigative consumer agencies as they are referred to in California – conduct background checks. Under this law, the candidate has a right to review the CRA’s findings. The CRA must make the information available should the applicant request information with proper identification in person, in writing via certified mail, or ask in writing for a phone call to review the findings. It is also the CRA’s responsibility to provide a written explanation of any codes found in the report and access to a trained person to explain the findings. See law.
Get an MVR check in California from Checkr
California organizations that employ drivers of company vehicles, employees that drive for sales calls, or other positions subject to safe driving regulations may choose to conduct California MVR checks. Partnering with a trusted CRA, like Checkr, to conduct California driving record checks can help save time and resources. With Checkr, MVR reports are generally available within 1 business day, though most complete within a few minutes. Checkr offers standalone MVR checks or they can be added to your screening package for a more comprehensive background check.
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
As Compliance Manager, Danielle analyzes the ever-changing laws and regulations affecting background screening to ensure that Checkr and its customers stay compliant. She also writes content to educate employers about background checks, screening best practices, and fair hiring laws.