Both the driver of runaway truck that careened through a busy Austin, TX intersection and his company are being sued by the family of a 19 year-old woman who was T-boned in the crash according to KXAN.
The lawsuit alleges that not only was the driver negligent in his control and operation of the vehicle, but his employer was negligent for hiring a driver with a criminal record who had several convictions for ranging from DUI, driving without a valid license to battery.
“Bottom line is that truck should not have been on the road and that driver should not have been driving that vehicle.” Justin McMinn, Esq.
KXAN was not able to reach the parties named in the lawsuit.
When Do Background Checks Matter?
Anyone who employs a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) driver must “qualify” that driver under Parts 383 and 391 of the FMCSRs and that includes a background investigation (Safety Performance History), a Road Test conducted by your organization, or a Photocopy of a CDL in lieu of road test, a Medical examiner’s certificate or proof of current medical certification as shown on the MVR.
This is the minimum a driver employer needs to do. There is also an implicit obligation to to develop one’s own internal hiring standards. In some cases that means not hiring someone with a bad driving record. In other cases, if your organization often goes to Canada, it means not hiring someone with a criminal or perhaps even an arrest record. In any case, it means carefully screening and vetting and qualifying any potential drivers.
Have a Written Driver Hiring Standard
Every organization should have a written driver hiring standard or hiring criteria. Sometimes driver hiring is done infrequently (once a year or less often) or done rarely, so it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal.
I find smaller organizations tend to even skip this step and rely on their insurance company and their rule book to vet their drivers. This may not always be a good idea for a number of reasons. Your risk-partner may error on the side of caution and you may lose a driver who might work for you. This can happen when an insurance company may have set a minimum driving age of X years (21, 23, 25, etc.) and the driver in question is near (less than a year or so from) that age. Then it might be a good idea to talk with the underwriter and present your case why this driver is acceptable to you. You may find that in the case of an individual driver, age might not be that big of a deal. You will never know unless you ask . . .
Talk to Former Employers
In addition to written hiring standards, potential employers need to talk to the prior employers. As Mike Coffey, a background specialist, of Imperative Information Group recommends, ask the prior employer, among other questions, if they would rehire the driver in question. Again, you will never know unless you ask . . .
In the final analysis, trying to sort out all of these things in a legal venue is not the best way to find out what could have been done differently. Be proactive. By following a few of these proven pointers you can avoid hiring drivers who keep having bad luck.
Thank you for reading this.
John Taratuta is a Risk Engineer. (989) 474-9599