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CDLIS—The Commercial Driver License Information System

The driver went to the store to buy a camouflage suit the other day but couldn't find one.

If you hear about companies ordering CDLIS reports or see a “CDLIS Report” in the screening reports that have been ordered on you, you know why.
Which raises a question doesn’t it? Were they not there or just too well camouflaged? And that is the same question that used to be asked by motor carriers when they ordered an MVR and found no violations. Did the driver have no violations or were they camouflaged?

Many of the largest motor carriers order a “CDLIS (pronounced ‘Sid-less’) Report” when doing their driver pre-employment screening. CDLIS stands for Commercial Driver License Information System. A CDLIS report informs motor carriers the states in which a commercial driver applicant has been licensed. The motor carrier may then order a driving record on the applicant from these prior states of license.

CDLIS was created as a result of the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986 (CMVSA). CDLIS was intended to serve as a clearinghouse of information related to driver licensing of commercial drivers. The main issue to be addressed, at least at the beginning, was the problem of commercial drivers holding multiple licenses from different states. The goal of CMVSA was to insure "that each driver, nationwide, have only one driver license and one record through the cooperative exchange of commercial driver information between jurisdictions.”

In the “olden days” drivers would have a couple of drivers licenses, maybe one from “State A” and one from “State B.”. When stopped by law enforcement, the “State A” license was provided and violations would accumulate and show on the license from State A. However, when applying for a job, the company would be given the license from State B, and when the MVR was run on the State B license, the MVR was clear—it did not reflect any of the violations from the State A license.

And so now, prior to issuing a license, a state department of motor vehicles must query CDLIS to determine if a driver holds a commercial license in another state. (They must also query the National Driver Register, a file of problem driver information. The National Driver Register will be addressed in a future article.) CDLIS does not actually store all the past information—it just stores enough information to point the inquiring state to the state holding the current record. A state that inquires into the history of a driver license applicant queries CDLIS and is pointed electronically to the current state. This state then relays the information to the inquiring state in seconds.

This does raise a question: if states do all this checking prior to issuing a CDL, why do motor carriers continue to order CDLIS reports to find out the state the driver has been licensed?

Probably the main reason is that DOT regulations require motor carriers to make “An inquiry into the driver's driving record during the preceding 3 years to the appropriate agency of every State in which the driver held a motor vehicle operator's license or permit during those 3 years.” So motor carriers must first determine what states the applicant has been licensed and the driver license number in those states so that the driving record may be ordered.

If you hear about companies ordering CDLIS reports or see a “CDLIS Report” in the screening reports that have been ordered on you, you know why.

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