Trucking companies have a responsibility to hire competent drivers who are qualified to operate heavy commercial motor vehicles on our highways and roads and have a proven safety record. One way to investigate compliance with this requirement is to assert a negligent hiring claim in truck accident lawsuits.
The Code of Federal Regulations Title 49 for Transportation specifies the responsibilities prospective employers have when screening applicant drivers. Section 391.23 (49 CFR § 391.21) provides the investigations and inquiries prospective employers must make of their applicant drivers. These rules include a requirement that motor carriers make an inquiry within 30 days of the date the driver’s employment begins to each state where the driver held or holds a motor vehicle operator’s license.
Lawyers handling truck accident lawsuits should be aware that some trucking companies often make a proper inquiry to the state where the driver currently holds their license yet fail to investigate the driver’s record in states where they previously held a CDL.
The DOT rules also require that trucking companies investigate a prospective driver’s safety performance history with DOT-regulated employers during the previous three years. In other words, the employer must request the applicant driver’s file from companies where the driver previously held commercial driving jobs in the three years preceding employment.
As a leading trucking accident law firm, Beasley Allen has decades of experience litigating truck accident lawsuits. We often find that 30(b)(6) deponents will attempt to deflect their findings, stating that they complied with the DOT requirement. But as we all know, the purpose of the rule is not to ensure that the box is merely checked, but to investigate the driver’s recent driving performance and determine whether the applicant is competent to operate a commercial vehicle.
When litigating a truck accident case, get the 30(b)(6) deponent to recognize the importance of hiring safe drivers. Ask, “Why is it important to ensure that you are hiring a safe driver?” And also, ask the deponent, “Why is it important to review the documents received from an applicant’s prior employers?” Asking questions like this, you will establish a duty while underscoring the defendant’s deviation from that duty. Push the deponent and make them stand by the fact that they must hire a safe driver.
To successfully litigate a truck accident lawsuit, remember that relying on the defendant trucking company’s qualification file of the defendant driver is not enough. It is important to subpoena the defendant truck driver’s records from their previous employer before depositions. Any trucking company that hires a negligent driver may itself be found negligent. Completing a proper and adequate inquiry of a truck driver per the DOT regulations will not only spotlight some of the driver’s past and experience, often it will reveal past employers that were not included on the current job application, along with other omissions and inconsistencies.
Negligent truck drivers are at the core of many cases that trucking accident law firms handle. These cases recover for the damages that negligent drivers cause by exposing the employer for placing that driver behind the wheel of a commercial truck. To prove the trucking company’s liability in these cases, you must diligently search and establish that the company knew of a driver’s incompetence and/or noncompliance or indifference to the federal trucking rules that help protect all of us on the roadway.