Truck drivers share the roads with the drivers of ordinary passenger vehicles every day. Trucking companies therefore owe a duty to the public to hire only skilled, qualified truck drivers who will not put others on the road at serious risk of an accident.
Unfortunately, some trucking companies engage in negligent hiring practices that contribute directly to catastrophic accidents on the roads.
What Constitutes Negligent Hiring?
Trucking companies may engage in negligent hiring practices in several ways.
- Fail to conduct proper background checks. A driver with a substantial accident history or multiple drinking and driving convictions, for example, might not have the necessary judgment and restraint to safely haul a big truck. If the company fails to conduct a proper background check, however, the company may not realize the danger the driver poses and may choose to hire him anyway. In some cases, trucking companies may choose to hire drivers despite failed background checks to fill open spots.
- Fail to check driver training and certifications. Commercial drivers must complete specific training courses to obtain their Class C commercial drivers license, which is a license to drive the typical tractor-trailer combination. In some cases, however, drivers may not have the necessary licensing. Those drivers may nevertheless manage to make it through the hiring process in a negligent company.
- Fail to provide adequate driver training. While drivers must go through specific training to obtain a Class C license, that training often does not offer them the full skills they need to handle the tasks assigned to them out on the road. Trucking companies must, in particular, take care to issue advanced training for flatbed use, in how to secure cargo, and for transporting hazardous cargo. Truck drivers may also need ongoing training after they get hired, and may need to drive with another driver or receive additional training before hauling cargo on their own.
- Failure to onboard drivers properly. Each company has its own requirements and regulations, some of which may prove more extensive than federal regulations that cover the same concerns. Trucking companies must properly onboard drivers to provide all needed information and safely prepare to take over their runs.
Why Do Trucking Companies Engage in Negligent Hiring Practices?
Trucking companies can engage in negligent hiring practices because of:
It can prove expensive to conduct background checks. Employee training takes time away from both trainee and trainer, which can lead to a hefty cost burden for many employers. As a result, many employers choose to cut corners in their hiring practices to cut costs.
The trucking industry hauls more than 72 percent of all the goods that travel across America each year. Truck drivers put in between 2,000 and 3,000 miles on the road every week and, depending on their schedules, may work shifts of up to 14 hours each day. These truck drivers carry a heavy responsibility in more ways than one: it takes skill and experience to operate a big rig safely, especially when it carries several tons of cargo.
Even as truck driver pay increases in the wake of increased shipping needs across the country, turnover has also grown higher than ever. Truck drivers often have to work in poor conditions. They spend long hours on the road, away from their families. Not only that, they may struggle with inconsiderate drivers on the road and other difficult aspects of the job.
This high turnover can make it difficult for trucking companies to retain employees, and they may need to train and onboard them quickly to keep freight moving effectively. High turnover can also make it more difficult for even the best companies to keep tabs on new drivers, especially with shipping needs increasing across the country.
Overall Company Negligence
Some trucking companies have trouble keeping up with basic tasks, including those associated with employee hiring and onboarding. They may have general bad practices, including poor maintenance on their trucks or poor regulations controlling when employees can work and what they need to keep in mind during their shifts. Negligent companies may have a higher risk of overall safety violations, which may lead to increased problems with their drivers.
The Challenges Created by Negligent Hiring Practices
Trucking companies’ hiring practices have little to do with the average person, especially if you do not work in the trucking industry. If you drive on roads often used by big trucks, however, those negligent hiring practices may have more impact on you than you think.
Drivers May Not Have the Training to Properly Secure Cargo
Drivers who drive a standard 18-wheeler may not have to load or secure their own cargo most of the time. The customer that needs its goods hauled may take care of loading and unloading the truck. However, drivers who drive flatbeds or those who must take care of loading and unloading their own vehicles need to know how to properly secure their cargo to keep it secure.
Insecure cargo can cause a host of problems on the road. Sometimes, it can cause a tipping load accident: the cargo may change the balance of the vehicle, increasing the risk of the vehicle rolling over. In other cases, it can increase the risk of a jackknife accident.
Shifting cargo can also fall from a truck, such as if the driver does not secure the doors properly. In some cases, cargo can also fall off of a flatbed. Cargo that falls off of a truck, especially at a high rate of speed, can cause serious injury or pose a substantial hazard to other drivers on the road, who may have trouble avoiding that cargo.
Drivers May Lack the Skills Needed to Navigate in Poor Weather Conditions.
In bad weather, truck drivers must exercise additional care on the road. A truck’s wider wheelbase and greater mass can help hold it on the road, making it safer than other, smaller vehicles. Unfortunately, truck drivers may still lose control of their vehicles more easily in poor weather conditions.
Inexperienced drivers, including those often hired by companies that have overall poor hiring practices, may have more trouble controlling their vehicles in wet weather or on the ice, which can raise the risk of those drivers causing an accident. Inexperienced truck drivers may also have more trouble controlling a vehicle that spins out of control, causing it to take longer for them to pull it back under control.
Trucking Companies With Negligent Hiring Practices May Have No Idea of the Driver’s Actual Personality.
Any driver who gives in to road rage puts others on the road at serious risk of a deadly accident. When a truck driver exhibits road rage, however, the risks of catastrophic damage and fatalities rise exponentially.
A truck’s large mass means that it needs more room to maneuver and more distance to come to a controlled stop. A road raging truck may lose the ability to keep a big rig under control. Worse, he may deliberately tailgate a smaller vehicle or even cause an accident deliberately, often without taking the time to consider the extreme danger that his actions pose to innocent drivers of passenger vehicles.
Trucking companies need to go through a concentrated screening process to fully understand a driver’s temperament before sending him out on the road, especially with hazardous cargo or for long hauls. Truckers need the personal skills to adapt to and address the actions of others on the road without losing their tempers.
Negligent Hiring Practices Can Lead to Hiring Drivers With an Increased Risk of Drinking and Driving.
Drinking and driving poses a serious hazard for all drivers. It can cause decreased attention span, poor problem-solving ability, and slowed reflexes. Drivers who drink and drive may experience tunnel vision or struggle to observe everything happening around them on the road.
Drunk truck drivers may have even more problems behind the wheel.
Big trucks require more room to maneuver and better decision-making skills than the average passenger vehicle. Drivers need their wits about them to safely navigate the road, especially on busy roads or in poor weather conditions.
A driver with a history of drinking and driving may have an increased likelihood of doing so again, especially under the kinds of tight time demands and pressures often applied to truck drivers. If a company fails to properly screen new applicants, it can lead to the hiring of alcoholic drivers, including those convicted of drinking and driving in the past.
Negligent Hiring and Onboarding Processes Can Lead to Drivers With Inadequate Overall Training.
The basic training necessary to obtain a Class C commercial driver’s license may not supply new drivers with enough practical skills to drive safely in the varied situations truckers face every day. In fact, many drivers come out of those classes with only a basic understanding of how to drive a big truck, and may not have the skills needed to safely manage the transportation of cargo on their own. As a result, drivers may have a higher accident risk out on the road.
What to Do After a Truck Accident if You Suspect Negligent Hiring
Immediately following a truck accident, you may have little idea of whether the trucking company has negligent hiring practices that could have contributed to your accident. Instead, you may have only basic facts about what happened: the conditions that led to the accident and the behavior you observed from the truck driver before the accident.
You may, however, have reason to suspect the truck driver lacked skill or judgment, especially if you observed him struggling to complete basic maneuvers with his truck. You may also suspect the driver of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
What should you do next if you suspect the negligent hiring of an unskilled or dangerous driver contributed to the cause of your accident?
1. Report the Accident.
Call the police and report the accident. Let the responding officer know about anything you observed at the time of the accident, including anything that seemed dangerous or erratic about the truck driver’s behavior. When appropriate, a police officer can then check the truck driver’s BAC or launch a further investigation.
2. Seek Medical Attention for Any Injuries That You Suffered in the Truck Accident.
A truck accident can cause more serious injuries than an accident with a passenger vehicle due to the truck’s greater weight. If you suffered any injury, or believe you may have suffered an injury, make sure you pursue medical treatment. A visit to the emergency room or urgent care center will establish the full extent of your injuries and help you seek treatment. It will also provide evidence of when your injuries took place, which may prove valuable to your overall truck accident claim.
3. Contact a Truck Accident Attorney.
Ideally, get in touch with a truck accident attorney as soon as possible after the accident. An attorney can investigate the truck accident and your claim, providing you with crucial evidence concerning the evidence.
Your attorney may:
- Determine what caused the accident
- Look into the truck driver’s record
- Look into more information about the trucking company’s hiring efforts
Because truck accident claims often prove more complex than the average accident claim, you should always seek the help of an experienced truck accident attorney. If the attorney uncovers evidence that proves the company’s negligent hiring practices contributed to the accident, you may have grounds for a claim against the trucking company directly, and not merely against the individual truck driver.
An attorney can help you understand when you may seek additional compensation and give you more information about the compensation you deserve for your injuries.
Did you suffer injuries in a truck accident? Do you need to know more about your rights or start the process of filing a truck accident claim? Contact an experienced truck accident injury attorney as soon as possible for a free consultation concerning your accident.
Michael T. Gibson, P.A., Auto Justice Attorney
2420 S. Lakemont Avenue
Orlando, FL 32814