When a commercial big rig crashes, it is frequently due to an error made by the truck driver. Whether the driver was speeding, dozed off at the wheel, or failed to make a mechanical repair, the crash may appear to be entirely his fault. However, most commercial truck drivers are employees of big trucking companies who have a duty to make sure their drivers are driving safely and that their equipment is in good condition. In many cases of truck driver error, an experienced truck accident attorney can make a connection to a negligent action on the part of the trucking company. The trucking company will have a team of lawyers to fight this and to protect their driver, but with evidence on your side, you can take them on and win.
Trucking Company Hiring Negligence
Trucking companies are responsible for hiring and training drivers and for purchasing and maintaining trucks, so when there is an accident caused by a driver or by equipment failure, it is likely that the company has played some part in the cause of the accident. Truck driver employers must hold their employees to high standards when hiring them. When the truck company fails to do the following, they could be liable for any accidents their drivers cause:
- Ensuring drivers are qualified. In order to drive a big commercial truck, drivers must have a clean driving record and a commercial driver’s license (CDL). They must be at least 21 years old and pass a physical examination, including a vision and hearing screening. It is up to the employer to check the status of their employees’ licenses and physicals before hiring them and throughout the term of their employment.
- Conduct pre-employment background checks. Before hiring a driver, trucking companies must conduct a background check to ensure that he or she has not been convicted of a felony involving the use of a motor vehicle, a crime using drugs, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or a hit-and-run accident that resulted in death. If an employer fails to run a background check and their driver ends up committing a crime while driving, the employer could be held accountable for putting him on the road.
- Monitor drivers to ensure compliance with Hours-of-Service requirements. Federal Hours-of-Service rules are in place to make sure drivers are not on the road for long hours and driving while fatigued. Drivers are responsible for tracking their hours, but their employers should also monitor them and should never require drivers to break these rules.
- Conduct random drug and alcohol tests on drivers. Driving while impaired is a significant cause of truck accidents. The trucking company has a responsibility to regularly test their drivers to identify users who could harm others. If a drunk truck driver causes an accident and it is shown that his employer never conducted a random drug test, the company could be held liable.
After hiring qualified candidates, the truck company is also responsible for providing driver training and ongoing re-training. If a truck driver’s poor driving skills lead to an accident and it is discovered that he was never adequately trained by his employer, the company could be held liable.
Insufficient Truck Maintenance
Trucking companies own the vehicles being driven by their employers and, therefore, are responsible for their inspection and maintenance. While the driver must conduct daily checks while out on the road, the company must also make sure of the following:
- Vehicles are regularly inspected
- Trucks are maintained and repaired
- Trucks meet minimum safety standards
Equipment failure, such as tire blowouts, brake failure, and defective couplings with the trailer are common causes of accidents that injure motorists. When this happens, the trucking company should be held primarily responsible for not ensuring the safety of their vehicle.
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