When someone has been involved in an 18-wheeler collision and is seeking justifiable restitution for their own injuries and suffering or those of a loved one, it is natural to focus on what went wrong in the specific accident. For example the victim may ask what driving or mechanical error caused the crash to occur. However, from a legal standpoint another important question is what could have been done to prevent the accident from ever happening in the first place. Often the answer is that the truck driver could have been better screened and more closely monitored to prevent him or her from ever being behind the wheel at the time the incident happened. This article will briefly discuss some of the key considerations as they relate to the dangers of negligent hiring within the trucking industry.
IMPORTANT HIRING AND RETENTION REGULATIONS
The trucking industry is heavily regulated by federal and state laws because it is an industry which has a direct impact on public safety. For this reason trucking companies are legally required to hire and retain only employees who:
- Are at least 21 year of age or older
- Can read and write English to a sufficient level as needed to understand traffic signs, complete reports, and converse with the general public
- Have completed all written and driving tests in accordance with federal standards
- Hold a valid, state-issued Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)
- Pass any and all pre-employment drug testing, random drug testing, reasonable suspicion drug testing, return to duty drug testing and follow-up drug testing.
- Possess a medical examiner’s certificate of physical qualification to drive a commercial truck
- Pass an annual review
- Have all moving violations and accidents fully listed on record in conjunction with an annual review.
- Is not disqualified under any other federal regulations from operating a commercial truck.
In addition the trucking company must provide full and adequate training to all drivers. The company must also hire and train trucking supervisors who are qualified to detect intoxicated or unfit drivers. The company must also report all accidents and other related incidents. Finally, but quite importantly, there are strict regulations dictating how many hours a driver is allowed to work, and a detailed log must be kept to prevent over-worked, tired truckers from getting behind the wheel.
POTENTIAL REASONS WHY TRUCKING COMPANIES MAY FAIL TO MEET REGULATIONS
Unfortunately though the regulations are there to protect the public from unsafe drivers, operating extremely large vehicles, often with potentially toxic or flammable loads, many trucking company fail to act in accordance with these regulations, thus hiring or retaining individuals who may not be safe to operate a big rig truck. It can be hard to fathom why companies might take this risk, especially in the face of public safety, lawsuits, and fines. However, often the reasons come down to one, or a combination of, the following:
Oversight – The most charitable possibility is an oversight due to an honest mistake. However, mistakes and oversights still wouldn’t make an act of negligence excusable and even if the intent wasn’t to do harm, the company should still be held accountable.
Convenience – Closely related to a trucking company that is negligent due to oversight is one that is negligent because it is easier to be negligent. Essentially this is a company that is being lazy, and probably realizes they aren’t in accordance with regulations, but doesn’t care enough to do anything about it.
Ignorance – Ignorance of the law is no excuse for negligence, but it could certainly explain why a company fails to meet all legal requirements when it comes to hiring, training, and retaining safe employees.
Greed – When a trucking company is negligent due to a desire to save money, greed is involved. For example, if a driver shows up to work drunk or high, then he or she should be fired. However, this could result in the trucking company losing money as freight isn’t delivered or schedules and deadlines aren’t met. Additionally, regular drug testing and on-going training can be expensive, so too is hiring and training new employees and retaining the most competent ones.
Misplaced Loyalty – It is admirable for a company to take care of its employees, but its first priority should be public safety. Occasionally a trucking company may be tempted to ignore or conceal the misbehavior of its truckers because the company doesn’t want to have to fire them. However, this ultimately puts everyone – the public, the company, and the trucker – in danger.
THE CONSEQUENCES OF NEGLIGENT HIRING WITHIN THE TRUCKING INDUSTRY
Now that we’ve discussed what constitutes negligent hiring and why it might happen it’s time to take a look at what potential consequences exist when negligent hiring does occur. Unfortunately, the potential harm from negligent hiring can run the gamut from minor incidents to catastrophic accidents that result in major pain and suffering, severe injury, permanent disability, or death.
We were recently involved in a million-dollar settlement that involved negligent hiring within the trucking industry. A trucker disregarded a stop sign and veered into the wrong lane, colliding head-on with a couple that was stopped at the stop sign. Not only was the trucker under the influence of cocaine at the time, but it was ultimately revealed that the trucking company was aware of the driver’s drug problem, had fired him for it in the past, and then rehired him a few weeks later. Details of the case can be found here.
Clay Dugas and associates is committed to fighting against negligent hiring practices within the trucking industry. If you or a loved one have been involved in a tragic, trucking-related accident please contact us so that we can help you achieve justice and prevent others from suffering the same fate due to reckless, negligent behavior.