Do You Know If Your Drivers Are Properly Licensed?

A recent study by AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety (AAAFTS), titled “Unlicensed to Kill”, states that 18% of fatal crashes involved an improperly licensed or unlicensed driver.

Most companies who employ people to drive on the job obtain a “driver abstract” or “Motor Vehicle Report” (MVR) to verify that the employee is properly and currently licensed to operate a motor vehicle.

The report states; “crashes that involved a driver with an invalid license or no license resulted in 21,049 deaths, 18.7% of all deaths that occurred in motor vehicle crashes in theUnited Statesfrom 2007 through 2009.”

AAAFTS researchers defined “license status” as: valid, suspended, revoked, expired, cancelled, denied, or unlicensed.  They didn’t look at the characteristics of “valid” licenses to determine what factors (such as too many violations) may impact the likelihood of becoming involved in a fatal crash – only the frequency that fatal crashes involved drivers whose license was not valid (or was unlicensed at the time of the collision).  Additionally, the category “denied” indicates that the driver had attempted to obtain, extend, or renew his or her license but the driver’s request for the license, extension, or renewal was denied by the licensing agency.

The study also examined factors such as: driver age, sex, blood alcohol concentration; vehicle type, time of day and day of week of the crash, number of vehicles involved in the crash, and whether the driver remained at the scene of the crash or fled.

  • Age, as a factor, showed that youthful drivers were generally more likely to be unlicensed or suspended/revoked than older drivers. 
  • Large truck and bus drivers were highly unlikely to be driving without proper credentials, but operators of pickup trucks and light duty vehicles (i.e. SUV, van, were more likely to drive without proper credentials. 
  • Additionally, in those fatal crashes where the operator wasn’t properly credentialed, they were more likely to flee the scene than to stay behind:
    • “An estimated 10.6% of drivers with suspended or revoked licenses who were involved in fatal crashes left the scene, as compared to only 1.7% of validly licensed drivers”
    • “Excluding drivers who were incapacitated or killed and thus were unlikely able to flee, 31.2% of fatal-crash involved drivers with suspended or revoked licenses, as compared to 3.7% of validly licensed drivers left the scene of the crash (not in table), indicating that among fatal-crash involved drivers who were not incapacitated or killed, drivers with a suspended or revoked license were 8.4 times as likely to have left the scene compared to validly licensed drivers.”

What Does This Mean for Most Fleets?

These factors and findings should give most risk managers and safety professionals pause to consider whether their current license validation system is performing for them on a consistent basis.  Not only do they need to verify each operator’s license status, they should have a mechanism to evaluate the content of each MVR.  Data quality, scoring mechanisms, and compliance with a growing number of regulations could undermine your program if you’re not managing it closely:

  • Are you getting the raw data posted from each state’s database, or a paper report that was generated by a vendor’s own system.
  • What is the data quality of your MVR reporting platform?
  • Does your vendor use encrypted XML posting to transfer data and protect your Personally Identifiable Information?
  • Is your scoring system adjust for each and every ACD code from the most current AAMVA data dictionary?
  • Can you defend your MVR system if called to the witness stand?
  • What about diversion agreements, plea bargains, events older than 36 months?
  • Are you (and your supplier) in compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA), and state statutes and regulations?
  • How often do you update records?  Is the periodicity linked to the number of existing violations (i.e. those drivers with more activity get monitored more frequently?)
  • Do you subscribe to any state sponsored (or vendor provided) alert programs which notify the employer when a change is posted to the operator’s MVR?  It costs extra, but may be a worthy investment in your risk management plan.

The prospect of a newspaper headline about an employee involved in a hit and run collision who doesn’t have a valid license presents a bleak public relations nightmare.  Worse, it could set up the employer for litigation based on a theory of negligent hiring, negligent supervision or negligent entrustment depending on the specifics of the tragic crash event.

What Can Be Done?

  1. If you don’t currently check MVRs for new hires and again on a periodic basis, you may want to start.  Studies show a direct correlation between violations and increased crash risk – the studies have been revalidated showing the benefits of monitoring MVR data —
  2. If you already check MVRs annually, consider enrolling in a monitoring program.  Currently twelve states offer license monitoring to provide notification to employers about changes in license status during the course of the year.  While there are supplementary fees associated with monitoring, they may prove trivial in comparison to the costs of defending a horrible crash event.
  3. Investigate your current program and re-validate your program supplier’s credentials – are they compliant with the latest privacy regulations and are they able to deliver meaningful scorecards, reminder notices and automated profiling based on ACD codes from the AAMVA?  Perhaps this year is a good year to re-bid your business relationship and upgrade to a more robust solution?

E-DriverFile is our Risk Management Information System designed to track and manage many aspects of driver safety, including MVR reconciliation and monitoring.  We can design monitoring packages for all states – even if those states don’t currently offer MVR monitoring programs. 

To learn more about the study:

 To learn more about MVR programs:

To learn more about E-DriverFile:


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