In May 2019, an Atlanta-based lawyer recently won a lawsuit against a commercial truck driver who ran a red light and thus hit two vehicles at a traffic light. Collision and ultimately extreme pain and discomfort as a result of the accident.
Initially, the trucking company's owner admitted that he had failed to perform pre-employment background checks on drivers as required by the Federal Motor Transportation Safety Administration (FMCSA).
A background check under FMCSA rules would have revealed that the driver had been involved in two previous rear-end collisions while driving a commercial vehicle. Two summonses were issued for close attention to these incidents; His commercial driver's license had been suspended for 60 days and he had received a speeding citation while driving a tractor trailer two months before the 2007 crash.
The driver also admitted that he had not disclosed the previous incident in his employment application. In addition, the trucking company destroyed all documents related to the driver's application and lawsuit one month prior to responding to the lawsuit.
Because the defendant had destroyed the documents, the judge instructed the jury to assume that they would ultimately harm the trucking company's case. During the trial, the trucking company owner changed his story, saying he knew the driver's previous driving record but chose to hire him anyway.
Based on the owner's testimony and other evidence, the judge allowed the jury to consider punitive damages against the company for negligent employment and for reckless driving. The jury in this case awarded the plaintiff $566,000 in compensatory damages and $15,000 in punitive damages against the trucking company for negligent employment.
Before considering employment, the FMCSA requires car carriers to obtain three years of each driver's driving and employment history. The Department of Transportation (DOT) oversees the drug and alcohol testing program for entrusted employees, including CDL. DOT requires employers to conduct pre-employment drug testing and obtain a three-year record of drug/alcohol violations.
Other rules set by the FMCSA and DOT require employers to constantly monitor their employees. Motor carriers that fail to perform this inspection may be subject to fines. While a variety of factors are considered when assessing fines, record-keeping penalties start at $500 per day and $5,000 for intentionally falsifying records. As these cases demonstrate, monetary losses can be far beyond the scope of the FMCSA's assessment.
Now, more than ever, companies should consider a screening program that goes beyond minimum compliance requirements to maximize the return on their screening investment. Motor carriers with strict screening programs can also protect themselves from penalties associated with noncompliance, cargo theft, and risks associated with negligent employment or retention litigation.
Due to background check regulations in the trucking industry, it is important to select a review partner who specializes in providing a service designed to help you comply with DOT while avoiding liability arising from negligence in hiring. Fireback can create filter packages based on your individual company needs or specific job category requirements.