Driver Requirements for Commercial Vehicles

Attorney Patrick JarrettA collision between large truck and a passenger car occurs on the highway. The driver of the passenger car is severely injured and facing a lengthy recovery period and mounting medical bills. During the course of the litigation, your attorney learns that the truck driver has a checkered driving history.

Does this new information change the case? Absolutely.

The driving history and character of drivers often plays a crucial role in cases involving semi-trucks and other large commercial vehicles. A commercial vehicle is any vehicle weighing more than 10,000 pounds used in furtherance of a commercial enterprise.

If a vehicle meets the definition of a “commercial vehicle” a lengthy set of requirements apply to both the driver and their employer. For the employer, this includes a laundry list of requirements for background checks on the driver and due diligence in investigating their driver history. If these rules are violated, there may be a claim against the employer for negligent hiring and/or retention of the at-fault driver.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) provides a lengthy set of regulations describing these rules beginning at section 391.21.  These regulations require the owners of commercial vehicles to take several extra steps when investigating the backgrounds of both new and current drivers.

For example, the employment application must include, at a minimum: description of past vehicles the driver has operated, a list of all accidents for three years prior to the application, a list of all violations the past three years, explanations of any license suspensions or revocations, and a list of all employers the previous three years.

Most importantly, the regulations place a duty on the employers to investigate the information the drivers put in these applications, by collecting driver histories and contacting past employers.  The employer must give great weight to violations for speeding, reckless driving, operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and any other conduct exhibiting a disregard for the safety of the public. This is found in section 391.25.

Once a driver is hired, the employer must continue to investigate the driver by reviewing the drivers’ history at least once every twelve months and note this in the driver’s employment file.

Other requirements the FMCSA places on employers is to ensure every new driver passes a road test and a certificate demonstrating they passed is placed in the file. A medical exam certifying that the driver is physically qualified to drive a commercial vehicle must also be kept in the file and kept in the vehicle at all times.

These are just a handful of the many rules employers must follow to hire and retain drivers of commercial vehicles. If it is revealed during the litigation that any of these regulations were violated, it may prove liability on behalf of the employer for negligent hiring and/or retention of a driver.

If you have been injured in an accident involving a semi-truck or other large commercial vehicle, contact the trial attorneys at Jarrett & Price for a free consultation at (706) 770-6669 – (912) 999-2599. Our personal injury attorneys serve accident victims throughout northeast Georgia with offices in Clarkesville, Georgia and Cleveland, Georgia. Our Savannah attorneys also serve all of southeast Georgia including Chatham County, Liberty County, Bryan County, Effingham County and Screven County.


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