Needless to say, driving a massive 18-wheeler takes a lot more experience and skill to drive than your typical 4-door sedan or pickup truck.
In the past decade, trucking companies have seen fewer and fewer people applying for driving positions. At the same time, experienced truck drivers are retiring, leaving a shortage in qualified labor.
Not having enough drivers is also causing trucking companies to struggle to deliver their loads on time. With the added pressure, a company might allow drivers to drive more than is allowed by federal law, encourage them to skip breaks, and ignore regular maintenance checks, all of which might put motorists in danger.
In 2019, the driver of an 18-wheeler struck another big-rig truck on I-75 outside of Gainesville, FL. One of the trucks then struck a passenger vehicle while the other careened over the center divider, striking a church van. It was discovered that the truck driver who caused the accident had received several traffic tickets over the years, which included speeding, not carrying proof of insurance, operating an unsafe vehicle, and driving an overloaded commercial vehicle. Both truck drivers and the 5 children in the van lost their lives due to the accident.
Although there are federal regulations that require companies to hire competent drivers, due to the low availability of drivers, many might employ truck drivers with bad driving records, which can put you at risk.
Why Is There a Shortage of Truck Drivers?
The American Trucking Association reported in 2019 that approximately 60,000 drivers were needed to satisfy the demand from trucking companies and that soon the number will increase to 100,000. It is thought that potential younger employees are not attracted to the job.
The lifestyle of a truck driver can be a difficult one. Long periods of time isolated and out on the road see truck drivers away from home, causing strain on their families. Most drivers earn anywhere from $40,000 to $50,000. This income, they believe, does not adequately compensate them for the time they have to be away from their loved ones.
Truck drivers also have to conform to a set of federal regulations that, if broken, may result in fines and penalties. Traditionally truck drivers have been able to do their jobs without having to answer to authorities, which was one of the reasons they were attracted to the job in the first place. But now drivers are constantly monitored by new technology, even as trucking companies pressure them to deliver their loads on time and sometimes even bend the rules to do so.
There are also health issues of which older drivers are aware and sometimes cause them to retire from the profession. These health problems arise from sitting in the same position for hours on end, day after day, causing damage to the circulatory and cardiovascular systems. These same health problems deter many people from becoming a truck driver.
How Is a Company Prevented From Hiring Bad Drivers?
Simply put, bad drivers have bad driving records and cause more accidents.
In 2018, a study by the American Transportation Research Institute determined that:
- Drivers who had previously been in an accident were 88% more likely to be involved in another crash
- Drivers who regularly failed to use a turn signal were 96% more likely to get in a wreck
- Drivers with speeding tickets of 15 MPH or more over the limit were 67% more likely to get in a crash
Regulations exist that are meant to ensure that trucking companies hire competent and well-trained drivers. First and foremost, a driver must pass a series of practical driving tests and written tests to obtain their CDL (commercial driver’s license).
There are also federal requirements that forbid a driver from operating a vehicle if their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .04% or higher or if they are under the influence of drugs, prescribed or otherwise.
Negligent Hiring Practices
The following are instances where a trucking company might be guilty of negligent hiring:
- Doesn’t provide training to an inexperienced driver
- Hires a driver without a valid CDL
- Doesn’t require drug testing of the driver
- Hires a driver with several driving violations and/or with a record of driving while impaired
- Hires a driver whose advanced age has affected his ability to be a good driver
- Does not complete a background check of the driver
- Does not report accidents and safety violations committed by the driver
Contact an Experienced Truck Accident Lawyer if You Have Been Involved In a Collision With an 18-Wheeler
As part of our investigation, our team of attorneys will be examining the hiring practices of the trucking company. If you believe you deserve compensation from an accident involving an 18-wheeler, let us help you collect what you are rightfully owed. Contact us today.