Nothing was going to stop him. The bobtail truck driver hit a car at an intersection. An off-duty policeman, noticing the erratic driving, tried to stop the driver. But for some reason he wouldn’t stop, even driving under a 12 foot bridge.
The driver, Danny Clyde Burnam, 57, did not stop at a police barricade, drawing fire from police. At least one police round struck Burnam. Burnam then sped up, doing 60 MPH in a posted 25 MPH speed zone.
Burnam did stop after striking about a dozen vehicles, finally colliding head-on with a car with three young men inside, driving it into a building, and fatally injuring Jeffrey Oakley. Another occupant was seriously injured.
After Burnam was arrested, a police check revealed Burnam was no stranger to the law. His record showed dozens of arrests, many involving drugs and alcohol, and a number of felony convictions, including domestic violence and battery.
The name Burnam, it turns out, was another alias used by Danny Clyde Williams, who had eight social security cards at the time of his arrest.
“It’s unbelievable how somebody has a record of 55 charges and you’re letting this man still drive a truck. I can’t even process that right now.” Mother of one of the victims.
How does a bad player like this fall through the cracks? Who dropped the ball? Why does this happen? Did the trucking company follow the rules and regs?
Finding driving talent is difficult. Some say it’s the job. Some say it’s the pay.
Most truck drivers with at least five years of experience, however, love the job. Truck driving takes skill and acquiring any skill is the product of hard work. An increase in skill in any job is usually followed by an increase in pay. Trucking is no exception. Generally, the longer one successfully works in trucking, the more money one makes. This means keeping a clean driving record, no tickets, no collisions.
Most truck drivers . . . are average. The average driver can have a less-than-perfect driving record and may have been involved a collision or two in the past.
The sub-average driver may have had a number of tickets or was involved in several collisions. These usually get the attention of insurance underwriters, on a case-by-case basis.
Danny Clyde Williams or whatever his name really is, falls into a different category. He is a high-risk driver. The whole purpose of CSA 2010 (now simply CSA) was to identify and monitor the high-risk driver . . . if you recall.
Our whole driver-licensing system is based on the honor code, that implies drivers will honestly represent their history and driving record. The problem is, if a driver is willing to snub his nose in the face of the DOT rule book, cheat, or lie, then there’s not much any government agency can do.
The last line-of-defense is the motor carrier. Every carrier has their own system to vet new drivers. In most cases, their vetting system works. Most carriers have sufficient controls in place to catch any sub-average drivers.
In-house hiring systems can fail, when faced with hiring a high-risk driver who will employ fraudulent means to secure employment. Identifying these drivers is difficult because they are willing to lie and are good at covering their tracks.
Vetting the Driver
To avoid hiring or retaining the high-risk driver:
- Use a professional background checking service when hiring. I’m always impressed as a loss control rep, when a small organization invests in these type of vetting services. They are not cheap, but neither is a bad hire . . .
- Pay attention to the driver’s employment history. Try to talk to every previous supervisor, if possible.
- Look for employment gaps. Is the driver hiding a job in which he was terminated for good cause?
- Everyday is probation. Usually a string of safety incidents is telling you something about this driver. Investigate every safety incident or collision, especially if not reported by the driver.
- Don’t skip anything. Do your required background checks. Road test the driver. Find out as much as you can about this person. Fill out all required DOT paperwork, from A-to-Z.
- Finally, trust your instincts. If you see red flags, pick up bad vibes, or a bad attitude, get someone else’s opinion on whether or not the driver is a good candidate for your company.
Thank you for reading this.