Given the sheer mass of an 18-wheeler and the amount of damage one can cause in an accident, there’s no room on the road for unqualified drivers.
Yet, a nationwide shortage of qualified drivers may be pushing more fleet owners to take risks with drivers who are too green to be driving long hauls alone—and it’s putting everyone else on the roads in danger.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has set out regulations that applicants need to meet in order to be qualified drivers. Among them, the driver needs to demonstrate that he or she can safely operate a commercial vehicle through training, experience or both.
With many companies losing two drivers to retirement for every one new driver gained, larger companies are raising wages to attract qualified drivers with experience because they recognize that experienced drivers are an investment in the company’s stability and future.
Some of the smaller companies that can’t compete with the same wage offerings are, according to one expert, willing to put anybody on the road for a long haul as long as he or she can get the “truck started and back out of the driveway.” These small companies lack the time and resources to invest in sending new drivers to train with experienced drivers for a while. Nor do they have time to let new drivers establish themselves on shorter runs before tackling the long hauls.
In some cases, a new driver might be entrusted with a long haul the same day he or she is hired, giving the company no time to even properly investigate the new employee’s background. Companies may not be checking to see if their new drivers have all the qualifications that they need to have before putting them on the road. Background checks that could reveal past accidents and drug problems could be skipped. Important physical health exams may also be rushed or entirely omitted, and drivers with untreated diabetes or other dangerous conditions could be allowed on the road.
If you’re injured by a truck driver who should never have been behind the wheel, an attorney can help. Employers are generally expected to be responsible when hiring an employee and are usually liable for employee negligence. If the driver is an independent contractor, the company could still be guilty of negligent entrustment for providing the driver with the truck and the load to haul.
Source: U.S. Government Publishing Office, “Electronic Code Of Federal Regulations Title 49: Transportation Part 391 – Qualification of Drivers and Longer Combination Vehicle (LCV) Driver Instructors,” Feb. 13, 2017