In March, an Amtrak train hit a tractor trailer truck that stalled on the railroad tracks in Halifax County, N.C., which derailed the train and injured 55 people. A recent report indicated that the tractor-trailer driver has been cited for multiple traffic violations, including operating a vehicle with a revoked license. For example, he was charged with exceeding the weight limit on his truck in December 2012. The truck driver’s company, Guy M. Turner Inc., declined to comment on his driving record or any other details of the accident. According to the report, federal laws require transport businesses to perform background investigations prior to hiring truckers and to review their driving records every year.
According to investigators, the driver having difficulty maneuvering a tight turn across the tracks with a truck that exceeded length and weight limits. Emergency railroad dispatchers weren’t informed of the driver’s difficulty, which drivers are required to do. Additionally, a toll-free emergency number is displayed at each railroad crossing to for truck drivers to contact dispatchers who can radio trains to stop, but the driver here failed to do so.
Duty of Care in Hiring and Retaining Drivers
Trucking companies have a duty to exercise reasonable care in hiring truck drivers. They have to exercise due diligence in finding out if a prospective employee has a history of bad actions, from which it can be inferred that he or she is not qualified for the position. When a trucking company knows or should have known that the candidate has a negative job history and yet hires him or her to drive, the company may be held liable for negligent hiring if an accident occurs.
Similarly, trucking companies have a duty to exercise reasonable care in retaining drivers and ensuring that they are safe to drive on the road. Fulfilling this duty may involve regular alcohol and drug testing, reviewing driver logs or inspection reports, providing training, and imposing consequences on drivers for safety violations or falsifying log book entries. If a company fails to satisfy this duty of care and fails to terminate a driver when it has reason to know, or should have known, that the driver is incompetent or dangerous, it may be held liable for negligent retention if somebody is injured because of the truck driver’s conduct on the road.
Protocols for Hiring Truck Drivers
Protocols for hiring driver’s are contained in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation Handbook. These protocols include checking a driver’s motor vehicle record and complete background checks, and includes contacting previous employers. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has a pre-employment screening program that allows carriers, drivers, and industry service providers access to commercial drivers’ safety records. These records contain a driver’s most recent 5 years of crash data and the most recent 3 years of roadside inspection data from the FMCSA database. According to FMCSA, companies utilizing the screening have reduced their crash rates by 8% and their driver out-of-service rates by 17%.