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Negligent Hiring: Truck and 18-Wheeler Accidents Caused by Unqualified Drivers

Trucking companies are responsible for hiring qualified drivers who can safely operate vehicles weighing up to 80,000 pounds. When they violate this basic legal duty, they can be held responsible for the negligent hiring of unqualified or disqualified drivers. If you were injured in a truck accident in Houston and would like to learn more about how hiring practices may impact your case, reach out to a knowledgeable Houston truck accident lawyer from The Doan Law Firm. We offer a free case review to discuss your legal rights and options.

Negligent Hiring Trucking Practices

What Are Unqualified Disqualified Drivers?

Driving a semi-truck requires particular skills and qualifications. Drivers must have the appropriate license type and potential endorsement before they can legally drive certain types of trucks. They must also be in a physically fit condition so that they can operate the vehicle safely. Unqualified drivers lack the qualifications or experience to safely be hired to operate a truck.

Disqualified drivers, on the other hand, are drivers who did meet these qualifications at one time and have experience driving a commercial truck. However, they have done something so that their commercial driving privileges have been temporarily suspended or revoked.

Part 383.51 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act lists specific traffic violations that can result in a driver being temporarily disqualified from operating a commercial motor vehicle, which include:

  • Driving 15 mph or more over the posted speed limit
  • Reckless driving
  • Making improper or erratic lane changes
  • Following too closely
  • Violating a law related to motor vehicle traffic control in connection with a fatal accident
  • Driving without a valid commercial driver’s license
  • Driving without a valid endorsement
  • Texting while driving
  • Using a handheld mobile device

Many of these offenses result in an initial 60-day suspension, while a second or subsequent offense can result in a 120-day suspension.

Additionally, a driver’s license can be suspended for at least one year if they commit any of the following offenses:

  • Driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.04% or greater
  • Driving under the influence of drugs
  • Refusing a drug or alcohol test
  • Committing a felony with the vehicle
  • Leaving the scene of an accident involving another vehicle
  • Causing a fatality through the negligent operation of a commercial vehicle
  • Driving a commercial motor vehicle with a suspended commercial driver’s license

A second offense can result in a lifetime driving ban, but some states, including Texas, allow reinstatement after ten years.

What Leads to the Hiring of Disqualified or Unqualified Drivers?

The United States is facing a severe shortage of qualified truck drivers. There are not enough people to perform this job to meet the high demand of delivering consumer goods. This has led some desperate trucking companies to hire unqualified or disqualified drivers, prioritizing profits over safety. This leads to avoidable accidents occurring. In these situations, the negligent trucking company can be held responsible for the resulting injuries.

Best Practices When Hiring a Truck Driver

Implementing rigorous hiring practices is crucial for maintaining safety standards in the trucking industry. When hiring truck drivers, companies should follow these best practices to mitigate accident risks and ensure compliance (this isn’t easy) with industry regulations:

  • Thorough background checks. Companies should conduct comprehensive background checks that include a review of the applicant’s driving record, criminal history, and previous employment verification. This helps to identify any red flags that might indicate a propensity for unsafe driving or behaviors that could endanger others.
  • Verification of credentials and qualifications. It is essential to confirm that all potential hires possess a valid Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) and any necessary endorsements for the types of vehicles they will operate. Verification of participation in any specialized training programs is also beneficial.
  • Pre-employment drug and alcohol testing. Implementing a strict policy for drug and alcohol testing before hiring can help prevent accidents related to substance abuse, which is particularly critical in a job demanding high levels of alertness and precision.
  • Regular health assessments. Given the demands of truck driving, ensuring that drivers are medically fit is vital. Regular health assessments can detect conditions that may impair a driver’s ability to operate a larger commercial vehicle safely.
  • Skills assessment. Practical skills assessments can help evaluate a candidate’s ability to handle the specific types of vehicles and situations they will encounter on the job. This can include on-road driving tests or simulator scenarios.

Consequences of Negligent Hiring Practice in the Trucking Industry

Negligent hiring practices can have severe repercussions for trucking companies, their employees, and the public. Some of the key consequences include:

  • Increased accidents and safety incidents. Inadequately trained or unsuitable drivers are more likely to be involved in accidents. This not only poses a risk to their safety but also to other road users. Accidents can lead to severe injuries, fatalities, and substantial property damage.
  • Legal and financial liabilities. Trucking companies that fail to conduct proper due diligence in their hiring processes may face legal actions if their drivers cause accidents. This can result in costly settlements or judgments, as well as increased insurance premiums.
  • Reputational damage. Companies found guilty of negligent hiring practices might suffer from a damaged reputation, which can affect their ability to attract business and qualified employees. Public trust is crucial in the logistics and transportation industry, and once lost, it can be challenging to regain. Companies, if you’re reading this – hire the drivers you want representing your company.
  • Regulatory penalties. Federal and state regulations mandate strict compliance with safety standards, including those related to hiring. Violations can lead to fines, sanctions, and restrictions on a company’s operations.
  • Impact on employee morale and retention. Negligent hiring practices can undermine the morale of other employees who may feel that safety and compliance are not taken seriously. This can lead to higher turnover rates, adding to recruitment and training costs.

How Can I Prove Fault in a Case Involving an Unqualified Driver?

Modern-day trucks contain many technological advancements than previous vehicles. They often have onboard cameras, black box recorders, and computer systems that track a vehicle’s every movement. However, trucking companies are reluctant to hand over such valuable evidence when doing so can subject them to substantial liability. This is why it is critical to work with an experienced Houston car accident attorney who knows how to identify, preserve, and assemble evidence to establish the trucking company’s negligent hiring practices.

Call for a Free Consultation with Our Houston Truck Accident Lawyers

When a trucking company negligently hires an unqualified or disqualified driver, they can be held responsible for the injuries the driver causes through their negligent operation of the truck. The Doan Law Firm has the experience, resources, and skills necessary to fight for the compensation you deserve. Contact us today for your free consultation.

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