When it comes to auto accidents, whether a car accident, motorcycle accident or truck accident, it’s easy to assume that the driver is the person responsible. After all, the leading cause of a traffic accident is driver error, such as speeding, driving while intoxicated, or driving while distracted.
But this isn’t always the case. Trucking company negligence is a major cause of truck accidents, and you may be able to hold a truck company liable if you’re injured.
Common Examples of Trucking Company Negligence
A fully loaded semi-truck weighing around 80 thousand pounds is twenty times heavier than the average car. It’s not difficult to imagine the sheer magnitude of damage a truck accident can cause, which is why trucking companies are held to a much higher standard.
Unfortunately, many truck companies breach these regulations to meet deadlines, maximize productivity and profitability, and, ultimately, get more work done.
Trucking company negligence encompasses many acts, but they typically fall into one of four categories:
- Negligent hiring
- Failing to maintain vehicles
- Failing to train employees
- Violating hours of service.
1. Negligent Hiring
Driving a large vehicle — whether a big rig or a smaller truck — is no easy feat, so the law requires truckers to undergo a stringent qualification process to drive commercial vehicles. Obtaining a commercial driving license (CDL) requires hours of practice and passing a written test and skills tests. However, having a CDL does not automatically qualify a driver to operate all commercial vehicles.
There are three classes of commercial vehicles: Class A, Class B, and Class C. A truck driver can only operate trucks in the class permitted by their license.
However, a company will sometimes hire drivers despite them being unqualified, which constitutes trucking company negligence.
This driver may not be qualified, having slipped through the rigorous qualification process. In some cases, they may have a commercial driver’s license but not be qualified to drive a specific class of truck.
A trucking company can also be negligent if they fail to conduct proper checks on their drivers.
For example, a truck driver may have a license but be disqualified from driving for not passing a drug and alcohol test. Even if a driver is not disqualified, they may have a record of poor behavior or bad habits, such as speeding.
The FMCSA requires all trucking companies to maintain a driver qualification file — or DFQ — for every trucker they employ or contract. This record includes a driver’s employment history, evidence of any accidents they’ve been involved in, qualifications, and medical history.
If a DFQ reveals that a driver has poor vision or hasn’t passed a recent drug test and the trucking company chooses to hire them or continues to contract them, they could be found negligent.
2. Failure to Maintain Vehicles
Another typical example of trucking company negligence is failing to maintain vehicles. If a truck hasn’t been thoroughly inspected before getting the all-clear to go on the road, it can spell disaster. A tire might need replacing, and it could blow if it’s not checked, turning the truck driver into a passenger and sending them right into oncoming traffic. Likewise, a brake failure could lead to a deadly T-bone incident at an intersection.
This makes it vital for commercial trucking companies to routinely inspect their vehicles, looking for any defects.
Sometimes, this negligence is intentional. A truck company might push its fleet to its limit to avoid costly repairs and maintenance or lost work due to not having enough trucks on the road. It might also be accidental. Either way, the truck company can be liable.
Not checking that cargo is loaded correctly can also constitute trucking company negligence. While dedicated cargo companies are responsible for loading and unloading cargo — which is why cargo companies can be found liable in semi-truck accident claims — it is ultimately on the trucking company to ensure that it’s correctly loaded, balanced, and secured. If it isn’t, cargo can come loose and detach itself from the truck.
3. Failure to Train Employees
There are many industries where training is vital for top performance. If you chose to hire a lawyer just out of law school versus one who has been practicing for decades, you’d likely choose the one with on-the-job experience and training. Likewise, truckers require sufficient training to be able to perform their job.
It’s not enough for trucking companies to hire a driver with the prerequisite qualifications and licenses — they must also train their employees and regularly supervise them.
If a truck driver isn’t trained appropriately, they pose a danger to themselves and others on the road. Trucks are large, complex pieces of machinery, so drivers need to understand safety and traffic regulations and be regularly tested.
If a company fails to train drivers, it could be found negligent and liable for an accident.
4. Hours of Service Violations
Truck drivers are often under pressure to meet tight, often unrealistic deadlines, which can take its toll.
Truckers are on the road for long periods, and it can be difficult for drivers to stay alert. Despite trucking companies having a duty of care to their drivers to ensure that they get plenty of sleep and rest, it’s not uncommon for drivers to be on the road longer than permitted. Some even take drugs such as amphetamine to stay awake. When drivers are overworked, physically exhausted, and possibly intoxicated, it’s a recipe for disaster. They may not react in time to a hazard on the road and cause a devastating crash.
Truck companies often actively encourage their employees to work longer hours, fudging driver logs and timesheets and offering bonuses — making this a clear example of trucking company negligence.
Even if truck companies aren’t actively encouraging such behavior, they may still be aware of it and fail to discipline their driver. If this happens and the driver ends up in an accident, the trucking company will likely face legal action.
Unfortunately, trucking company negligence is a sad reality that our Texas truck accident lawyers regularly encounter. If you’re in an accident, you may immediately think that the driver is responsible. But truck accidents are complex, and the truck company often has at least some liability.
These common examples of trucking company negligence can lead to a serious truck accident, causing severe injury, trauma, and a huge financial burden. But you don’t have to accept it and move on. You can hold them accountable for the harm they have caused and receive compensation to support you as you recover.
If you’ve been in a truck accident, our truck accident lawyers in San Antonio and McAllen can determine if trucking company negligence is a factor and fight to get you the compensation you deserve from all parties responsible. Call our compassionate team at 855-LAW-NINJA or fill in the contact form for a free, no-obligation case review.