The Legal Examiner Mark The Legal Examiner Mark The Legal Examiner Mark search twitter facebook feed linkedin instagram google-plus avvo phone envelope checkmark mail-reply spinner error close
Skip to main content
Trucking companies must ensure tractor trailer drivers are safe and properly trained.

Most truckers on the road today are competent, safe and dedicated professionals. However, in the cutthroat trucking industry there is constant pressure to hold down costs in order to gain a competitive advantage. While the trucks themselves can sometimes be dangerous, when fuel prices, maintenance costs and other expenses increase, trucking companies are often tempted to lower their standards in hiring and retaining drivers. These companies still have a duty to ensure that their drivers are qualified and properly trained to handle an 80,000 pound big rig.

Normally, a significant portion of the hiring process for a truck driver position is spent determining an applicant’s suitability for the job, including examining the applicant’s experience, previous training and driving record. When trucking companies take the time (and expense) to complete this process properly, there is a high likelihood of success in hiring safe, competent and professional truckers. However, when companies cut corners, it is possible for unsafe, unprofessional or even unlicensed drivers to get behind the wheel of these land-locomotives, which poses a potential hazard to all motorists.

Some of the questions that should be addressed as part of the hiring process include:

  • Does the driver have a history of trucking accidents or traffic citations?
  • Has the driver failed any drug or alcohol tests?
  • Does the driver have a history of chemical or alcohol dependency?
  • Does the driver have a criminal history?
  • Is there evidence that the driver's records or logs have been altered or falsified?
  • Does the driver have medical conditions that could affect his/her ability to drive a large commercial truck?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, the applicant may not be a good candidate, or at the very least deserves extra scrutiny. Trucking companies owe it to the rest of the driving public to ensure that their drivers are safe and competent.

I would like to hear from trucking professionals – what is your opinion on hiring standards? Are you aware of unprofessional drivers falling through the cracks and getting hired? How can the system be improved?

[More topics in my "Did You Know" Series]

(c) Copyright 2010 Brett A. Emison

11 Comments

  1. Gravatar for Brett Emison

    Allen,

    Thanks for reading and for your comment. I hope the new CSA standards help to increase safety and reduce the number of injuries and deaths from commercial trucking crashes.

    However, the safety problems and enforcement issues identified as one of the reasons for the 2010 improvements underscore the fact that these regulations are a floor for safety, not the ceiling. Trucking companies owe it to their drivers and to other motorists to provide more than the minimum safety required by federal regulators.

    For those interested, you can find more information on the 2010 CSA initiative at (http://csa2010.fmcsa.dot.gov/)

    Thanks again for reading and taking the time to comment.

  2. Gravatar for Greg Drake

    This really is a non issue. Accidents involving trucks are at an all time low. It amazes me there are people still trying to paint the trucking industry as wreckless. These people really should find a better way to make a name for themselves.

  3. Gravatar for Jim

    Greg, He is just an ambulance chaser doing some advance work. He knows it doesn't matter how hard a driver tried to avoid hitting the car that didn't think cutting off a truck was a bad idea that he is going to get paid big time. I know that is a horrible sentence, but I choose to keep it so. A wise man once said "1st Kill all the lawyers."

  4. Gravatar for Brett Emison

    Greg and Jim,

    Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment. However, there appears to be some disconnect.

    Perhaps you missed the very first line of the post, which read:

    "Most truckers on the road today are competent, safe and dedicated professionals." Surely we can agree on that statement.

    Perhaps you also missed Allen's reference to the CSA 2010, which noted the need for improved safety measures.

    Surely you missed my reference to the quality of drivers trucking companies should avoid (those with a history of accidents, drug or alcohol abuse, those with a criminal history, who falsify log books or have a dangerous medical condition). Surely we can agree those drivers should not be at the controls of an 80,000 pound semi-truck.

    You must have also missed the part where I argued that trucking companies should not pressure (or force) drivers to run too long, too fast or on too little rest. Surely, we can agree trucking companies should not engage in such conduct.

    Jim - you, sir, do not know me. I am no ambulance chaser. Your resort to mindless name calling betrays the weakness of your argument and has no place in civilized discourse. Perhaps, instead, we can engage in a thoughtful and reasonable discussion as this forum was intended.

    Thanks again for reading.

  5. Gravatar for J Robinson

    One of the biggest cost facing the trucking industry is the constant treat of litigation. The treat of frivolous lawsuits drive up insurance rate and require truck drivrs and their companies to protect themselves above what is reasonable and prudent. Thess cost are made necessary because unlike the trucking industry the legal commounity is not willing to police and regualte their rank therfore unscrupulous attorneys feed off an uniformed public with advice like " we aren't suing the driver or his company we are just suing his insurance company. Attorneys should clean up their own house before making recommendations to the trucking industry. Attorneys are always anxious to sue truck drivers but try to get one to take legal action against another attorney...will not happen ...ethics among thieves? How about some lawyer jokes?

  6. Gravatar for Brett Emison

    J -- thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

    Perhaps you have judged this post by the title of my profession rather than the content of the article. If so, that is unfortunate. You'll find no support for or suggestion of frivolous lawsuits here.

    What costs does the trucking industry face with respect to what you have characterized as the constant threat of litigation? Insurance costs? Training costs? Proper hiring methods? Regulatory compliance? Safety costs? Each of these "costs" would (and should) be necessary whether litigation exists or not.

    Like truck drivers, attorneys are an honorable profession charged with policing our own. Each state has a bar association that governs the ethical conduct of its members. Within each state, there are local bar associations with similar ethical standards. You will find no shortage of attorneys working to hold those few "bad apples" in our profession responsible for their conduct. A simple Google search for "legal malpractice lawyer" nets more than 1.5 million results.

    If you're concerned about safety and keeping truck drivers safe, then I suspect there is far more upon which we agree than disagree.

    Thank you again for reading.

  7. Gravatar for j robinson

    Mr. Emison's credibility is immediately questioned when he used terms like "cutthoat trucking industry". I question his knowledge to speak to any issue regarding the trucking industry and truck safety. Mr. Emison is a personal injury lawyer who derivers his income from others unfortunate injuries and accidents. I didn't use the term "threat" of ligigation I was writing to Mr. Emison with the literal term "TREAT" of ligigation because that is his line of work selling the TREAT of law suits.

  8. Gravatar for Brett Emison

    J -- thanks for continuing to read and check back. However, I am disappointed you have chosen to engage in a personal attack (without knowing me) instead of a substantive discussion.

    How is my credibility "immediately questioned" by using a term like "cutthroat trucking industry"? Do you disagree that the trucking industry is highly competitive? Do you disagree that trucking companies -- by paying drivers by the mile instead of by the hour -- put the all of the risk of travel delays and mechanical breakdowns on truck drivers rather than the company? Do you disagree that in many cases truck drivers are driving more miles for less pay? Do you disagree that it is incredibly difficult for an owner/operator driver to complete against billion-dollar trucking companies? I seems like the trucking industry is pretty cutthroat.

    As to your second point, again you seem to be more concerned with my profession than the substance of the message. This is unfortunate because I suspect there is much on which we can agree with respect to safety.

    I assure you litigation is no "treat". My clients have been severely and permanently injured (paralyzed, brain damaged, broken, burned or killed) by the conduct of others, including some "bad apple" truck drivers and trucking companies. My clients did not ask for their fate and to suggest otherwise is offensive and small-minded.

  9. Gravatar for Jim

    Brett, I usually post a comment like what I made on any msg board that pops up in my Google alert that I have set up with trucking keywords. I have never seen replies like I have here. You seem to have more understanding than most lawyers on the industry. You are correct about the millage pay issue. The other big problem that nobody understands is the 14 hour rule. basically one can not drive after the 14th hour from when he first went on duty. It prevents drivers from doing things like stopping for a while when school buses are working, stopping for a while when rush hour traffic could be avoided or just taking a nice nap in the middle of the day. I did fail to post this link that I always do: http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/documents/udarepo.pdf .

    It is a DOT study that shows almost always a car is responsible for a truck involved wreck. If the car responsible is not the one that gets hit they almost always get away. Some don't even know anything happened and continue the same conduct that hurt people. A minivan full of adults "Swoop and Squatted" me one day in New Jersey. My dash-cam caught a nice video of them bracing for impact before the driver hit the brakes. I got lucky. The same thing without a dash-cam would have been a multi million dollar judgement against me and my company instead of 6 guys going to jail.

Comments are closed.

Of Interest