In the United States, any one of the almost 3.5 million commercial truck drivers on the road could potentially cause a traffic accident. Fortunately, federal law tightly regulates who can work as commercial truck drivers. If employers follow those laws, they should only hire qualified employees with the skills to handle big rigs safely. Sometimes, however, trucking companies cut corners or don’t understand their legal obligations, and put dangerously unqualified drivers behind the wheels of their rigs. If a trucking accident injured you, contact Dolman Law Group today at (727) 451-6900.
Federal law imposes rigorous requirements on commercial truck drivers, all with the goal of making sure that only safe and qualified drivers sit behind the wheels of big rigs. These regulations try to protect you, the driver on the road. According to federal regulations, employers must confirm that:
- The applicant has undergone and passed a physical exam. Each applicant must pass a Department of Transportation physical exam before hiring, and each must pass a new physical exam every two years.
- The applicant has the appropriate commercial driver license. For most trucking companies, drivers need Class C licenses, which they can only obtain after passing a general knowledge exam and other tests. The law requires this license if the vehicle transports hazardous material, weighs more than 26,000 pounds, or transports more than 16 passengers.
- The applicant passed drug and alcohol tests.
- The applicant’s past employment and driving record don’t raise any red flags. An employer must look at the driver’s record for any prior driving infractions—and probably shouldn’t hire an applicant with a string of driving convictions. The same is true if the driver was disciplined by a previous employer for poor driving. At a minimum, a trucking company must know about these problems and take corrective actions if it chooses to hire the driver.
While these federal laws aren’t optional, some trucking companies cut corners and fail to satisfy all of their screening requirements. When that happens, they put unqualified drivers on the road and risk the health and safety of millions of persons.
Of course, any trucking company that doesn’t inquire about any of the above requirements has engaged in negligent hiring. And some companies perform all the necessary checks but still hire those drivers—even after they uncover black marks on their driving records. Maybe they are desperate for employees, or maybe they just want to give a person a chance at a job. Either way, a trucking company that overlooks obvious problems with a driver is therefore guilty of negligent hiring—and of putting everyone’s life at risk on the road.
- Truckers in poor physical health might fall asleep at the wheel or become addicted to prescription drugs, which will harm their abilities to drive. Drivers might become careless as the physical stresses begin to wear them down.
- Truckers without Class C licenses probably lack the knowledge to safely drive trucks.
- Truckers with drug or alcohol problems are more likely to break traffic laws and react more slowly to road hazards.
- And truckers with histories of poor driving may exercise poor judgment or impulse control, which can lead to accidents.
Federal safety regulations exist to protect you and countless other drivers on the road. Dolman Law Group holds accountable trucking companies who shirk federal safety regulations when their drivers cause crashes and injure innocent people.
How Do You Know if a Driver is Unqualified?
Any trucker can become distracted or careless and cause an accident. But how will you know whether a trucking company performed the necessary background checks before hiring the driver?
Essentially, you won’t. Drivers aren’t in the habit of admitting they haven’t passed a physical or that they failed drug or alcohol tests. And trucking companies aren’t anxious to admit any of this, either. Fortunately, however, your personal injury attorney will request documents from the trucking company to check whether they complied with all federal safety regulations.
For example, your lawyer can submit a Request for Production, which requests that the trucking company provide certain documents, like a DOT physical exam card for the driver in question. Or your lawyer can ask the trucking company questions that they must answer under oath. If a third party has any records, your attorney can request those by serving a subpoena, which is a legal request to turn over relevant documents.
In short, you won’t know a trucker’s lack of qualifications from looking at the trucker, but a good personal injury attorney can use available legal techniques to uncover this information.
A trucking company that violates federal safety regulations can face fines and punished by federal agencies. Repeat offenders might have to go out of business. Unfortunately, however, the federal government won’t get compensation for you. Instead, you’ll need to file a lawsuit for negligent hiring in civil court. This proceeding will take place independently of any criminal or administrative proceedings the government brings against the trucking company.
Contact a Clearwater, Florida, Personal Injury Attorney Today
Trucking accident victims shouldn’t suffer in silence. Instead, they need an aggressive personal injury attorney who can stand up to negligent trucking companies and demand the compensation that their clients deserve. At Dolman Law Group, we’ve helped countless accident victims injured by unsafe hiring practices. Call us today at (727) 451-6900 or fill out our online contact form.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765