Trucking Companies Face Consequences for Continuing to Employ Unsafe Drivers

Truck drivers should be expert drivers. They operate vehicles that weigh thousands of pounds along roadways where families on vacation, school children on the way to work and local commuters driving to work also travel. The risk of serious injuries and death in a trucking accident is unbelievably high. Likewise, trucking companies, who profit greatly from their drivers, should be required to review and maintain a detailed accounting of their drivers’ proficiency to drive a commercial vehicle in order to avoid putting dangerous drivers behind the wheel of commercial vehicles.

The Annual Inquiry – Monitoring Driver Competency

Federal law requires motor carriers, including trucking companies, to perform an annual review of all of their drivers’ records to make sure that the driver is still save to drive every 12 months. This is important because for a number of reasons including:

  • (A) Preventing trucking companies from ignoring ongoing safety requirements of their drivers;
  • (B) Preventing drivers from hiding their bad driving records from their employers, thereby endangering innocent motorists;
  • (C) Mandating record keeping so that trucking companies cannot bury or cover up the existence of a bad driver.

The annual inquiry requires:

  1. each motor carrier shall, at least once every 12 months, make an inquiry to obtain the motor vehicle record of each driver it employs, covering at least the preceding 12 months, to the appropriate agency of every State in which the driver held a commercial motor vehicle operator’s license or permit during the time period;
  2.  each motor carrier shall, at least once every 12 months, review the motor vehicle record of each driver it employs to determine whether that driver meets minimum requirements for safe driving or is disqualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle;
  3. The motor carrier must consider any evidence that the driver has violated any applicable Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations in this subchapter or Hazardous Materials Regulations;
  4. The motor carrier must consider the driver’s accident record and any evidence that the driver has violated laws governing the operation of motor vehicles, and must give great weight to violations, such as speeding, reckless driving, and operating while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, that indicate that the driver has exhibited a disregard for the safety of the public.

Of note, the rules require that a company give “great weight” to more serious traffic violations like speeding, reckless driving or DUI. History with a bad truck driver tends to repeat itself. Trucking companies are not permitted to keep bad drivers employed just to keep their trucks on the road. This sort of conduct places motorists at risk of being injured or killed in trucking accidents.

Also, this prevents a commons scenario where a driver has no record of bad conduct at the time they are hired but develops a bad record after they begin driving trucks. Let’s take the example of Tom. Tom is a truck driver of 5 years and is hired by XYZ Trucking Company. Tom has an unblemished record at the time he is hired. However, two years into his time with the trucking company, Tom begins drinking heavily after his divorce and is twice charged with DUI. The annual inquiry prevents Tom from hiding his record from the company or the company from knowingly employing a bad driver. 

Even though these laws specifically require companies to check state department of motor vehicle driving records, the terms “any evidence” of bad driving seems to suggest that the company must make a record and consider accidents that are not officially reported (such as accidents occurring on private property) as well. The law also requires that records be maintained permanently in the driver’s qualifications file.

Negligent Retention – Trucking Companies Can Be Sued for Hurting People

So what happens if a trucking company ignores these rules and a bad truck driver injures or kills someone in an automobile accident?

Negligent retention is a theory of recovery against a trucking company that authorizes a trucking accident injury victim to seek compensation where a trucking company retains a driver that the company knew or should have known is a bad driver. If a trucking company ignores the requirement of an annual review, both the company and the reckless truck driver can be sued and held accountable for injuries or death.

If you or a loved-one are injured in an trucking accident a skilled commercial vehicle accident lawyer will be able to develop the facts in the case to support a claim of negligent retention. Our trucking wreck lawyers are trained to assist you by:

  • (A) Preserving evidence early in the case;
  • (B) Preventing destruction of evidence;
  • (C) Obtaining the negligent driver’s qualification file; and
  • (D) Skillfully maximizing the value of your trucking accident case.

What Can A Trucking Injury Victim Recover?

The victim of a trucking accident may recover:

  1.  Present and Future Medical Expenses;
  2. Lost Wages; and
  3. Pain and Suffering.

In the most unfortunate of these cases where a person is killed in a semi-truck accident, our experienced trucking litigation attorneys will often employ experts such as an accident reconstructionist or economist to determine what is fair for the trucking company to pay the injury victim’s family.

The Ferguson Law Group has experience fighting for the rights of trucking accident victims and their families. If you call us 24/7 for assistance with a commercial vehicle accident case, your call will be routed to an actual talented and highly trained commercial vehicle wreck attorney, not simply an intake person.