What is an MVR?

MVRs are a critical piece of the driver qualification process. But what exactly is an MVR?

Kathy Close - DOT Editor, J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

January 31 , 2020

A motor vehicle record (MVR) is a state-issued report detailing an individual’s driving record. Some refer to it as a driver abstract.

States are required, as part of their commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs) programs, to share and receive data from the federal CDL database, Commercial Driver’s License Information System (CDLIS). The state’s MVR includes any data entered on the driver’s record through CDLIS. As a result, the report provided by the state on CDL holders is often called a CDLIS MVR.

MVRs are a critical piece of the driver qualification process. Anyone hired to operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) as defined in §390.5, which includes both CDL and non-CDL vehicle types, is subject to the recordkeeping requirement.

DQ File Requirements

Motor carriers are required to obtain an MVR covering the previous three years for each new driver they employ, and then update the record every 12 months during employment.

For the initial 3-year MVR, a request must be sent to every state in which the driver held a license or permit during the last three years. A copy of each state’s record must be:

  • Placed in the driver’s qualification (DQ) file within 30 days of his or her employment date, and
  • Kept until three years after the driver’s employment ends.

The regulations also require a motor carrier to obtain and review an MVR on each driver annually, covering the previous 12 months. Each annual MVR can be removed from the driver’s qualification file after three years.

Additional Requirements for CDL Drivers

For interstate CDL holders whose MVR includes medical certification information, the MVR must be obtained before the driver operates a CMV, to prove that the driver is physically qualified.

This MVR:

  • Must be obtained every time the driver’s medical certification status changes;
  • Must be secured within 15 days following the driver’s medical exam; and
  • May be used to satisfy the initial or annual MVR requirements (serves a dual purpose).

MVRs as a Risk Management Tool

But the MVR is more than just a regulatory obligation. The MVR offers the motor carrier a glimpse into the behaviors of the driver since past behaviors are often an indicator of future performance. The way a driver handles vehicles — personal and commercial — is often revealed through a review of his or her driving record.

A motor carrier’s hiring and safety policies should set standards as they relate to the MVR. Scoring traffic convictions is one way to objectively rule out a candidate or require a current driver to go through coaching or refresher training. The severity of a conviction, frequency of citations, and how long ago a traffic conviction occurred are often included in this decision-making.

For additional insights into MVRs and other driver qualification requirements, download our free whitepaper Expert Answers to Common Driver Qualification Questions.



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