Negligent Hiring of Truck Drivers
Truck drivers play an essential role in the health of our economy. The trucking industry is worth around $700 billion and makes up around 5% of the total of full-time jobs in the United States. While it is sometimes easy to focus on the shippers and carriers, truck drivers themselves power the entire industry. They do outstanding work and shouldn’t be taken for granted.
But there is a harsh truth within the trucking industry. Many companies called “Motor Carriers” hire inexperienced and inadequately trained commercial truck drivers. These drivers may seem qualified on paper. For example, they may have a commercial driver’s license (“CDL”) and may have carried several loads for one or several shippers. But having said this, the inexperience of these truck drivers endangers everyone on the road. Even if accidents are not occurring, these unqualified truck drivers create risks to those around them every single day.
Instead of hiring these inexperienced and inadequately trained drivers, trucking companies must have higher standards for themselves. They need to follow all rules and best practices to protect the motoring public and their drivers. Negligent hiring and retention can cause citations for the company and provide a truck accident attorney compelling evidence of negligence in a personal injury lawsuit.
Untrained or inadequately trained truck drivers are appealing to hire for many Motor Carriers. Even if they don’t have much experience, their lack of experience means they will be cheaper. A trucking company trying to cut costs or increase bottom lines, decreasing operating expenses by hiring the cheapest drivers happens frequently.
Untrained or inexperienced drivers get into accidents at an alarming rate. Worse, the driver can be operating a big rig, which weighs up to 80,000 pounds. And an 18-wheeler truck accident, severe personal injury is likely. In short, hiring or keeping unsafe drivers in violation of the rules is evidence of negligence on the part of the Motor Carrier.
Complying with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations
Instead of hiring inexperienced and untrained truck drivers, Trucking companies must follow the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (“FMCSR”). The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (“FMCSA”) regulates commercial vehicles, drivers, and Motor Carriers. There are regulations related to driver experience and training. When a company ignores the rules or keeps an unsafe driver on the payroll, it may amount to negligence.
FMCSA recently amended entry-level driver training (“ELDT”) regulations that went into effect on February 7, 2020. This amendment was relatively minor, as it adopted a new Class A CDL theory instruction upgrade curriculum to reduce training time and costs by Class B CDL holders upgrading to a Class A CDL.
The main training requirements can be found in 81 FR 88732 (which you can find here). The entry-level driver training rule creates a minimum standard for entry-level drivers of commercial motor vehicles. The regulation requires that truck drivers complete certain CDL skills test requirements. Some of those requirements include range and public road segments (including discrete maneuvers). While there are no minimum proficiency hours for new driver-trainees, they must be able to demonstrate their skills to training instructors proficiently.
Ultimately, Motor Carrier’s much ensure that their drivers are fully trained and can navigate the challenges they encounter while on the road. Unfortunately, today our big rig accident law firm sees many examples of companies cutting corners and hiring drivers what should not be operating tractor-trailers.
49 CFR Section 391.51: General Requirements for Driver Qualification Files
Section 391.51 of the FMCSR generally requires driver qualification files. You can look at the entire regulations here. There are many requirements when creating a driver’s qualification file. Some of those requirements include the driver’s application of employment, a list or certificate related to violations of motor vehicle laws and ordinances, a copy of the motor vehicle record received from each state record, a medical examiner’s certificate, and a skill performance evaluation certificate obtained from a field administrator.
Section 391.51 all essential safety rules. Also, FMCSA’s guidance in section 391.51 is critical. For instance, the guidance states that drivers need not be requalified when a motor carrier purchases another motor carrier. Critically, the guidance states that if a motor carrier maintains complete driver qualification files but cannot produce them at the time of review or within two business days, that motor carrier will violate section 391.51.
Ultimately, A trucking company does not meet the minimum safety rules to the letter can be sued for its negligence by a truck accident lawyer, if a severe accident occurs.
The Importance of Screening and Reference Checks
Motor Carriers must keep on file the driver’s safety information to comply with Section 391.51. Trucking companies must pay close attention to your prospective driver’s background, experience, tickets, and any potential medical issues. In section 391.51(b)(7)(i), the driver’s medical examiner’s certificate must be on file. Failing to have this documentation or be satisfied with the driver’s documentation can lead to evidence in a personal injury or wrongful death case.
Beyond driving records, however, trucking companies must monitor potential drivers’ driving history. Since employment, if the driver has had issues such as moving violations, injury accidents, a claim of negligent retention can be made by an attorney for truck wrecks.
Negligent retention is a situation where the company should have fired the unsafe driver but kept him on instead.
Evidence of Trucking Company Negligence
Motor Carriers must follow the training and compliance rules of the FMCSR. As a trucking company, they must follow these regulations. After an injury accident with an 18-wheeler, the best truck accident lawyer will demand the complete driver’s qualification file in a truck accident lawsuit. Also, the attorney will likely run their background check on the diver involved in the accident.
Some of Our Recent Negligent Hiring Wins
- A smaller Motor Carrier hired an inexperienced driver without ensuring he was a safe driver and giving him a real driving test. The driver who had been on the job less than four months lost control of the tractor-trailer and jackknifed the rig across the highway, killing an innocent person. We were able to prove negligence on the part of the driver and the company. Our clients received a huge 7 figure confidential settlement before trial.
- A company retained a driver who was cheating on his logbooks. A careful examination of the logbooks and cell phone records showed the company should have been aware of the violations and fired the driver. The driver who was driving over the allowed hours hit our client’s vehicle. After we discovered and pointed out the many rule violations, the company settled the case but requiring the substantial amount they had to pay to remain confidential.
Why Experience Matters
Often, after a truck wreck, much of the damaging evidence is not known to the injury victims, or the family of someone killed in the crash. Attorneys without a working knowledge of the safety regulations and the experience in uncovering the wrongdoing are at a substantial disadvantage.
The weight of the evidence against the trucking company and its driver will impact a verdict or settlement of a personal injury case.
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