An 80,000 pound big-rig truck is a potential weapon on our Atlanta area roads and highways. This is especially true when unqualified truckers who do not know how to handle common weather conditions, congested traffic, or tricky truck driving situations are driving the trucks. Unfortunately, this would not be occurring if trucking companies followed federal regulations for hiring and retaining truckers who are qualified. Victims like you pay the price when you suffer life-altering injuries or die as a result of trucker inexperience and negligence.
What Is Negligent Hiring?
Negligent hiring is when trucking companies allow truckers who are not competent or are under qualified to operate a huge truck that requires a certain level of skill, training, experience, and certification to drive. Trucking companies have a duty to use reasonable care in hiring truck drivers. Federal rules set specific requirements that must be met by trucking companies when hiring truck drivers. If a trucking company fails to exercise reasonable care or violates federal regulations in hiring the trucker who causes a crash, the victim may have a separate claim for negligent hiring against the trucking company.
FMCSA Requirements for Hiring Truck Drivers
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates trucking companies and understands the importance of proper hiring practices to ensure qualified and experienced truckers are on our roads. As a result, detailed federal regulations have been enacted regarding the hiring of truck drivers, which set forth the minimum requirements of what trucking companies must do. Trucking companies must ensure that their applicants:
- Are 21 years old or older
- Can read and write English well enough so that they can understand traffic signs, complete reports, and converse with people around them when necessary
- Have completed all written and driving tests required under federal regulations for truckers
- Have a valid, state-issued Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)
- Pass any pre-employment drug testing as well as any drug tests while employed by the trucking company
- Possess a medical certification by an approved doctor stating that the trucker is qualified to drive a truck
Trucking companies are also required to conduct thorough investigations of applicants they plan to employ. They must do the following:
- Inquire in each state where the driver had or has a motor vehicle license or permit to obtain his driving record for the last three years
- Investigate the driver’s safety performance history with a Department of Transportation regulated employer during the last three years
- Investigate the driver’s employment by contacting his employers during the last three years. The investigation should include the driver identification and employment verification, any accidents he was involved in within the last three years, and whether he failed any alcohol or drug testing or violated any alcohol or drug prohibitions within the last three years.
The Problem of Negligent Retention of Truck Drivers
Trucking companies could also face liability in a crash if they negligently retained a trucker who was not capable of or qualified to continue to drive a truck—even if he was competent when he was hired. Trucking companies are required to keep the information they collected on an applicant in his driver qualification file. They are also required to update the file annually by doing the following:
- Obtaining a copy of the trucker’s driving record for the last year and examining it carefully to determine if the trucker meets the minimum requirements for safe driving and is not disqualified from driving a truck.
- Determining if the trucker violated any FMCSA safety regulation or federal hazardous materials regulation.
- Reviewing the trucker’s accident history and any traffic laws he violated, giving great weight to speeding, reckless driving, and driving under the influence of alcohol or drug violations.
In addition, truckers must be examined by an approved physician at least every 24 months to ensure he is physically able to drive a truck and does not have a medical condition that would prevent him from being a safe and competent driver.
Truck accident cases are more complicated than auto accident ones. If you or a family member were injured in a collision caused by a trucker, you want an attorney who understands the complexities of these cases and the many federal and state regulations truckers and trucking companies are required to follow. Violations of these laws could result in additional claims that the trucking company and truck driver are responsible for compensating you and help you obtain a more favorable settlement. Call our firm at (404) 998-5252 or start an online chat to schedule a free consultation to learn about your legal options.