What Risks Do Unqualified Truck Drivers Pose?Truck Accidents
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires truck drivers to meet several qualifications before receiving a Class C or commercial driver’s license. Those qualifications, however, are relatively minimal. A fully qualified truck driver might need considerably more than minimal training before he has the skills required to navigate out on the road safely.
What happens when unqualified truck drivers take to the road? It can mean those drivers could cause truck accidents to anyone around them.
Speak and Read English Satisfactorily
To safely navigate on roads across America, truck drivers need to read and speak English well enough to handle any challenges they might face on the road. English language proficiency also makes it easier for truck drivers to interact with police officers or respond to potential problems on the highway, from poor weather conditions to increased traffic.
Remain in Adequate Physical Health
Physical health can prove incredibly important for truck drivers. Truck drivers control huge vehicles, so they need to remain healthy enough to keep those vehicles safely on the road. Truck drivers who cannot pass their medical exams may lose their CDL privileges, which may prevent them from operating on the roads until they can regain that medical certification.
Receive Adequate Training
To receive a CDL, drivers must spend a set number of hours in training and receive the support they need to learn how to operate those much larger vehicles safely. Some training programs and requirements dictate how the driver gets his license, and that training can prove critical to ensuring that drivers have the tools they need to navigate the road safely.
Remain Safe on the Road
In many cases, truck drivers must meet more stringent standards on the road than the drivers of passenger vehicles around them. If truck drivers cause accidents frequently, they may lose their trucking license or have to go back to school to learn how to drive more safely. Furthermore, trucking companies may not employ drivers who regularly ignore safety precautions on the road.
A trucking company that employs a driver with a history of causing accidents may bear liability for that driver’s actions.
Why Do Unqualified Truck Drivers End Up on the Road?
Drivers may lack or lose their truck driving qualifications for several reasons. Unfortunately, despite the lack of those qualifications, they may end up on the road anyway. In some cases, drivers may meet the bare minimum legal requirements to operate a big truck but may lack the skills to do so safely.
Trucking companies need drivers.
Trucking companies have noted driver shortages for quite some time. Trucking needs have increased during the pandemic, with more goods than ever making their way across the United States. Many companies have also dealt with the ongoing challenges of hiring enough drivers to keep up with the specific needs of their companies.
The last couple of years have shown serious evidence of many shortages. Many stores struggle to keep adequate inventory on hand. Other goods end up backed up in ports, waiting for drivers to come to get them.
As a result, many trucking companies feel the pressure. They have deadlines they have to meet and challenges they have to get past. They may hire drivers with inadequate training or send out drivers who, for whatever reason, do not currently meet FMCSA standards, even though they know the potential dangers.
Trucking companies do not have time to provide additional training for their drivers.
Depending on the truck driving school, truckers may spend relatively little time behind the wheel before they receive their certifications and, therefore, the right to take a job with a trucking company and take to the road in a big truck. While some schools spend extensive time out on the road before they pass their drivers, others may have minimal truck time before drivers pass the class and achieve their certifications.
Those classes may provide minimum standards of competence. Still, they may not help truck drivers develop the full range of skills they need to successfully navigate dangerous conditions, including mountain roads, hazardous weather conditions, and potential hazards created by other drivers.
Some truckers may choose to obscure their medical challenges.
Many truck drivers, especially older truck drivers, may choose to try to hide signs of declining health rather than admitting it to their employers. They know that if they admit to their health challenges, they may not keep their jobs. Since they need their jobs to continue receiving health insurance and providing for their families, they may hide health conditions or even forgo treatment to keep their medical certifications.
Truck drivers must renew their medical certifications every 24 months. In some cases, doctors may issue certificates for less than 24 months, especially if the truck driver has a condition like high blood pressure that the medical care provider may want to monitor. Unfortunately, that may mean those truck drivers who develop severe conditions soon after receiving their medical certification will remain on the road despite health challenges.
Trucking companies may ignore problems with their drivers.
Even the most cautious truck driver may end up in an accident, notably if circumstances beyond his control cause him to crash. However, many unqualified truck drivers get into accidents because they ignore the rules of the road or do not take adequate precautions behind the wheel. Trucking companies need to address those challenges quickly to remove dangerous drivers from the road and prevent future hazards.
However, some trucking companies may ignore those dangers, allowing even reckless drivers to remain behind the wheel. Eventually, that can lead to severe consequences for the other drivers who share the road with dangerous, unqualified truck drivers.
What Happens When Unqualified Truck Drivers Take to the Road?
Unqualified truck drivers, whether they lack the skills necessary to operate a truck safely or they have declined in health over recent months, pose a severe danger to others on the road.
Unqualified truck drivers may not have complete control of their vehicles.
Unqualified truck drivers frequently cannot control their trucks safely. They may have a hard time controlling them for any number of reasons: they have never picked up the necessary skills to drive in specific terrain, for example, or they have reached a stage of poor health that prevents them from safely spending many hours a day out on the road.
However, when unqualified truck drivers lose control of their vehicles, it can spell disaster. Often, unqualified truck drivers end up losing control of the vehicle altogether, leading to jackknife accidents, rollover accidents, rear-end collisions, and severe injury for everyone involved.
Unqualified truck drivers may behave unpredictably.
Most drivers learn to share the road with big trucks reasonably early in their driving career. With big trucks moving a great deal of the cargo that has to go across the United States every day, most major highways see a great deal of big truck traffic. As a result, most drivers learn what to expect from the truck drivers around them.
They may, for example, learn that trucks tend to move more slowly as they pull onto steep roads or need more room around them to turn safely.
On the other hand, unqualified truck drivers may not behave the way other drivers expect, and they may tailgate more often or change lanes abruptly without ensuring adequate room around them. Unqualified truck drivers may also prove more likely to speed, even in conditions that could pose a danger to them and their cargo.
As a result, other drivers may expect them to slow down and may have a more challenging time maneuvering around them. Dealing with those truck drivers can prove particularly challenging when they swerve in and out of traffic or otherwise engage in dangerous, unpredictable behaviors.
Medically unqualified truck drivers could experience a medical emergency without warning.
Medical emergencies rarely come with warnings. Sometimes, truck drivers may assume that they can safely complete their daily shift, only to discover that a medical emergency puts them in a dangerous situation.
High blood pressure, for example, plagues many truck drivers due to their sedentary days and often-unhealthy diets. High blood pressure can increase the risk of both heart attack and stroke on the road, both of which can prove extremely dangerous to everyone sharing the road with the truck driver.
While a truck driver might, in some cases, have enough warning to get off the road before a medical emergency becomes more serious, in some cases, that emergency may occur without warning, increasing the odds that the driver will cause an accident as a result of that medical emergency.
Other medical conditions can lead to severe accidents, especially when these conditions are poorly managed. For example, high and low blood sugar in a person with diabetes can cause confusion and disorientation, which may make it unsafe for that driver to remain on the road.
Unqualified truck drivers may lack the skills needed to navigate tight traffic and other dangerous situations successfully.
Sometimes, truck drivers may find themselves navigating on tight roads or dealing with dangerous situations, including weather emergencies. Experienced, highly qualified truck drivers often have no trouble navigating those dangerous situations, whether they need to pay particular attention to their blind spots in their mirrors or they need to navigate through complicated turns safely.
Unfortunately, unqualified or underqualified truck drivers may have difficulty dealing with those scenarios. They could, in many cases, end up causing a severe accident because they lack the tools necessary to navigate those conditions safely.
Who Bears Liability for an Accident With an Unqualified Truck Driver?
Often, truck drivers themselves bear liability for any accident caused by their lack of experience or qualifications.
For example, a truck driver who has had blood pressure problems that should have prevented him from getting his medical certification and who has a stroke or heart attack behind the wheel because of those challenges might bear liability for the accident. Likewise, a driver who lacks the experience to navigate wet or icy roads but who takes to the roads anyway would likely bear liability for an accident caused by that lack of knowledge.
However, in some cases, the trucking company that employs an unqualified or underqualified truck driver may also share liability for that accident. For example, if a trucking company knew that a truck driver lacked the experience or skill needed to operate a big truck, or that the driver failed to exercise proper precautions on the road but employed the driver anyway, the trucking company might bear liability for an accident that driver’s negligence caused.
A lawyer can help determine whether an underqualified or unqualified truck driver caused a truck accident and what compensation the injured party might deserve.
If you get into an accident with an unqualified truck driver, working with an experienced truck accident attorney can help you navigate a truck accident claim and provide you with more information about your rights.
A lawyer can help examine the driver’s history, determine whether the trucking company knew about any lack of qualifications, and help you move forward with a truck accident claim.
Nathan Hughey, an attorney and fourth-generation South Carolinian, founded Hughey Law Firm in 2007. Before that, he spent five years defending nursing homes and insurance companies. Leveraging his experience, he now advocates for those injured or wronged by such entities, securing over $220 million in verdicts and settlements.