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How Trucking Background Checks Save Lives

By Dallas Personal Injury Attorney on August 11, 2021

The trucking industry often touts how easy it is to start driving commercially while also bragging about how experienced its drivers are. The truth is that truck drivers must complete several government-mandated tests, screenings, and background checks before they get behind the wheel of a big rig. Even then, drivers must agree to regular and random testing throughout their career to ensure they are fully qualified to haul cargo.

Despite these laws, unqualified and dangerous truckers can still slip through the cracks if trucking companies become lax in their screenings.

How Trucking Companies Evaluate New Hires

Almost every job requires pre-employment background checks, and most applicants do not sweat at the prospect of sharing their private information with employers. The average person may not know what they are being screened for. With truckers, these checks are designed to review the applicant’s qualifications and determine if they can safely operate this type of vehicle. These qualifications may vary depending on the types of cargo the driver will be hauling and where they will be driving.

These background checks are not only for the trucking company’s benefit: they are required by federal law. Under 49 CFR § 391.23, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FCMSA) requires trucking companies to investigate a prospective trucker’s background as far back as three years for each state he or she has driven in. Records they must review under federal law include:

  • DMV Records: To operate a tractor-trailer, a trucker must have a commercial driver’s license (CDL) that is certified from their home state. Most states classify CDLs as A, B, or C licenses, which apply to different vehicle weights. In addition, if a driver will be hauling hazardous material, a tanker, or double or triple trailers, then they require an endorsement from the DMV. Trucking companies can acquire this information from the driver’s DMV records, which will provide a report of the driver’s licensing, endorsements, and traffic violations.
  • Interstate vs. Intrastate Qualifications: There are two main types of truckers: interstate truck drivers, who can drive anywhere in the United States; and intrastate truck drivers, who only operate in one state. Even if a driver has a CDL, he must also receive approval from his state’s DMV to receive an interstate qualification. Without this approval, it is illegal for a driver to drive across state lines commercially.
  • DOT Safety Reports: Trucking companies must contact the U.S. Department of Transportation to get a copy of the driver’s safety performance history. This document will outline the last three years of a driver’s performance and note any violations or weaknesses that a company should be aware of.
  • DOT Physical Exam: Alongside the safety report, the trucking company should review a driver’s DOT-certified medical exam. These test results will show whether the applicant is capable of physically operating a vehicle and whether he or she has any dangerous medical conditions, such as epilepsy, vision impairment, or pre-conditioning for fatigued driving.

In addition to the DOT-certified background checks, the trucking company may also review the driver’s criminal records to determine if they have violated the law.

Consistent Drug and Alcohol Testing

Two important elements of a driver’s background check are drug and alcohol tests. All drivers are required to pass drug and alcohol tests before being allowed behind the wheel of a semi-truck, and these tests can continue for the rest of their career. The FMCSA requires trucking companies to test drivers each year (regularly and randomly) for drugs and alcohol, and disqualify any trucker who has a substance abuse issue. These tests are also required after trucking accidents to determine if the trucker was intoxicated, and these test results must be shared with the DOT.

What Happens When a Trucking Company Hires Unqualified Drivers?

These background tests are federally enforced and required for every trucking company in the United States. If a company skips a background check, ignores violations, or covers up a driver’s reckless behavior, then it can be liable if the truck driver causes a collision. There is no excuse for allowing an unqualified driver to get behind the wheel of a powerful and deadly big rig.

If you were injured by a negligent truck driver, then you deserve full compensation for the trauma you have suffered. At The Lenahan Law Firm, we are well-versed in investigating negligent truck drivers and their employers. Our Dallas truck accident lawyers can dig into the details of your collision, collect evidence of negligence, and stand up to the driver’s insurance company to get you compensation for your injuries. To discuss your case in a free consultation, contact us at (214) 295-1008.

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