What Makes Unqualified Truck Drivers More Likely to Crash?
When a truck accident happens, one shocking revelation may emerge: that the truck driver did not have the proper qualifications to be driving such a large, dangerous vehicle. There are many criteria that a truck driver must meet. Falling short in any single category may prevent them from driving capably and cautiously—as all truck drivers must.
What Qualifications Must a Truck Driver Possess?
Large trucks weigh as much as 30 times more than smaller vehicles. When such a large truck collides with other vehicles or pedestrians, the odds of serious harm are great. We mustn’t allow just anyone to get behind the wheel of a semi-truck.
The trucking industry imposes several criteria for truck drivers to operate legally. Precautions against unqualified drivers include:
A Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires truck drivers to have a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). By maintaining their CDL, truck drivers show that they have the skill, physical ability, and knowledge to drive a big rig.
The two primary features of the CDL test are:
- A skills test
- A knowledge test
Every motorist must pass a skills and knowledge test to obtain a regular, Class-E license. Large trucks present several challenges that smaller vehicles do not. Because of this, obtaining a CDL may be far more difficult than obtaining a Class-E license.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) requires physical examinations of truck drivers. Drivers should receive a card that shows they have medical clearance to operate a commercial vehicle, and that card is valid for 24 months.
DOT doctors may examine a truck driver’s:
- Blood pressure
- Vascular system
- Existing medical conditions
- Overall health
The DOT exam should be comprehensive. Truck drivers command massive vehicles, often traveling at high speeds. An undiagnosed, untreated, or disqualifying health condition can directly cause an accident—and possibly serious injury or death.
There is no excuse for trucking companies to hire someone with a spotty record. Whether infractions are related to personal conduct or driving, pre-employment screenings should weed out dangerous people and drivers.
The FMCSA’s Pre-Employment Screening Program (PSP) offers trucking companies a database of driver-specific data. This database provides “electronic access to a commercial driver’s five-year crash and three-year inspection history from the FMCSA Motor Carrier Management Information System (MCMIS).”
When conducting background checks, a trucking company may look for:
- A disqualifying amount of total accidents
- A disqualifying number of accidents in the recent past
- A criminal history, whether or not its related to driving
- Indicators of drug or alcohol abuse
- Any other red flags that can disqualify an applicant from driving a truck
Trucking companies must make a genuine, thorough attempt to screen drivers.
A driver must also be within the legal age range for a semi-truck driver. 18 is the minimum age to obtain a CDL. If a truck driver is going to cross state lines, they must be at least 21 years old. There is no maximum age for driving a truck. However, most truckers may become physically unfit past a certain age.
What Makes a Truck Driver Unqualified?
Several factors may make a truck driver unqualified for service.
One should not generally operate a large truck if:
- They lack a CDL, or their CDL expired
- They cannot pass a drug or alcohol test
- They lack the necessary knowledge to operate a truck safely
- They have vision or hearing problems that make them a danger
- They are too weak to maneuver a truck safely
- They have a history of dangerous driving
- They are prone to rage or other states that make them a danger to others
Driving a truck requires a steady hand, even temperament, and deep knowledge. A truck driver must know the rules of the road and abide by them. They must also know the ins and outs of their truck and the cargo they haul.
If you’ve been in a truck accident, then it’s worth asking: was the at-fault driver qualified?
Who Is Liable for an Unqualified Truck Driver?
Both truck drivers and trucking companies may be liable for a truck accident. Trucking companies may be liable through the principle of vicarious liability. This standard holds employers responsible for their employees’ harmful acts. Therefore, a trucking company should be responsible for their truck driver’s accident-causing failures.
The trucking company may have been negligent in its own right. If it allowed an unqualified driver to operate a large truck, then the trucking company may have a significant share of liability. The trucking company’s actions may even qualify as gross negligence.
How Do You Prove Negligence in a Truck Accident Case?
Negligence is generally the liability standard in truck accident cases.
Someone is negligent when:
- They owe someone a duty of care
- They breach their duty of care
- The breach of duty of care causes (or contributes to) a truck accident
- Victims of the accident can prove damages
A duty of care requires someone to act reasonably. For truck drivers, reasonable actions reduce the risk of causing an accident. Unreasonable actions, or failures to act, may increase the risk of a collision. Negligence by truck drivers can include speeding, driving while intoxicated, failing to secure cargo, and other dangerous acts.
A trucking company can also be unreasonable and thus negligent. Hiring unqualified drivers is just one example of negligence.
A trucking company may also be negligent if it:
- Provides dangerous trucks to its drivers
- Fails to monitor driver performance
- Fails to test drivers for illicit substances
- Does not discipline drivers who exhibit dangerous behavior
- Does anything else that puts the public in danger
You can hire an experienced truck accident attorney to prove negligence and liability for you.
What Should You Do After a Truck Accident?
Seek medical attention. Then, call a truck accident lawyer who can help you seek justice. If you take these two steps, you are doing the best you can to protect your health and preserve your path to full financial recovery.