Large commercial vehicles such as big-rigs, semi-trucks and 18-wheelers are involved in more than 400,000 accidents each year. These statistics are compiled by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation that's tasked with regulating the commercial trucking industry.
While the majority of trucking accidents are caused by driver error, sometimes the commercial driver isn't the only one to blame. When trucking companies prioritize
profit over public safety, horrific truck crashes can be the result.
If you think trucking company negligence caused or played a role in your accident, here's what you should know.
Negligent Hiring Practices
The FMCSA requires trucking companies to thoroughly vet drivers during the hiring process to ensure that they're properly qualified to operate large—and potentially deadly—commercial vehicles. Trucking company hiring best practices should confirm drivers have a valid commercial driver's license (CDL), clean driving and criminal records, and no health conditions that could make them a hazard to others on the road.
If a trucking company hires an unqualified driver who later causes a serious truck accident, the company could potentially be held liable for damages that arise from the driver's unsafe conduct.
Trucking companies are also required to provide commercial drivers with the training they need to operate their vehicles safely. However, demanding delivery deadlines and a shortage of qualified drivers may cause some companies to rush inexperienced drivers through bare-bones training courses or skip driver training altogether.
Unreasonable Driver Schedules and Expectations
Trucking company profits depend largely on their drivers' abilities to adhere to demanding pick-up and delivery schedules. Companies that offer incentives or bonuses to drivers who make deliveries ahead of schedule may be unknowingly (or even knowingly) encouraging their drivers to violate the FMCSA's hours-of-service regulations, which limit how long a driver can work per shift and week, and mandates break and rest periods.
Poorly Maintained Vehicles
FMCSA regulations require commercial drivers to thoroughly inspect their vehicles at the beginning and end of each shift, and have any issues repaired promptly. Trucking companies are also expected to use staff or third-party contractors to perform regular vehicle inspections and repair any discovered maintenance issues before the truck goes back out on the road.
Unfortunately, unrealistic pick-up and delivery schedules may cause some drivers to cut corners, skipping the required pre- and post-shift vehicle inspections. Trucking company representatives may also skip mandated vehicle inspections in the interest of completing pick-up and delivery schedules faster. Even if a driver does report a maintenance issue, or the trucking company discovers a problem during one of its inspections, there's no guarantee the truck will be taken out of service so the issue can be repaired in a timely fashion.
In the interest of safety, employers have a duty to supervise their drivers once they're hired and trained. When companies fail to screen drivers for drug and alcohol use both before and during employment, or turn a blind eye to drivers who have alcohol or substance abuse problems, they endanger everyone on the road.
Employers are also responsible for supervising their drivers to ensure their compliance with FMCSA regulations, such as hours-of-service and log-keeping requirements. Companies that fail to adequately supervise their drivers could potentially be held liable for damages that occur as a result of supervisory negligence.
Do You Need a Truck Accident Lawyer?
If you or someone you love were seriously injured in a truck accident that wasn't your fault, you might be considering filing a personal injury lawsuit against the driver of the commercial vehicle to seek compensation for medical bills and other related damages. However, in many truck crash cases, the driver isn't the only avenue a victim can explore for compensation. If trucking company negligence caused or contributed to your accident, the company may be liable for damages.
Do you have questions about a potential truck accident case? Contact Sevenish Law's Indianapolis law office today to schedule a free initial case analysis.