Large trucks, also known as semi-trailer trucks, semi trucks, big rig tractor trailers, and 18-wheelers, are complicated vehicles to operate - they require specialized training. Proper training ensures the truck's operator is knowledgeable of the logistics and mechanics of the truck. Adequate training ensures the truck's operator has hands-on experience with real-life truck driving scenarios. Improper or inadequate training puts us all at risk on the road. In fact, some estimates indicate that one-third of truck accidents can be traced back to improper or inadequate training. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), there were approximately 415,000 police-reported crashes involving large trucks in 2015. 20 percent of those crashes resulted in personal bodily injuries and another 1 percent resulted in fatalities.
The Importance of Proper and Adequate Training
Safety and prevention are overarching reasons why proper and adequate training for truck drivers is fundamentally so important. Improper and inadequate training can be an underlying reason for (1) poor inspection and maintenance of the tractor-trailer by the driver, which in turn can lead to equipment failure; and (2) poor performance on the road, especially when conditions require good reflexes and excellent understanding of how a truck operates and responds to a situation. The latter two consequences of poor training are -- collectively -- the cause of almost all auto accidents caused by large trucks. Improving training can improve safety on the roads.
Training Requirements & Gaps in the Law
Truck drivers need a special driver's license - a commercial driver's license (CDL). In December 2016, the U.S. Department of Transportation's FMCSA announced it had established national training standards for new truck drivers that became effective in February, 2017. All new truck operators must obtain training from an instructional program that meets FMCSA standards and pass CDL knowledge tests and behind-the-wheel skills tests. Proper training should include instruction on:
- Inspection and maintenance of the vehicle;
- The truck's braking and acceleration systems;
- Education regarding alcohol and drug abuse;
- Good health maintenance, including the importance of rest and sleep;
- Logbooks and hours of service limits; and
- Specialized training for the operation of oversized trucks or the transport of hazardous materials.
The new standards make it the responsibility of the training providers to determine if each CDL applicant is proficient in all required elements. Though this standard makes the trainer potentially liable, therefore providing an incentive to offer quality instruction, it also provides space for error. The trainer may be rushed, may favor one applicant over the other, or otherwise improperly train students.
Liability for Improper and Inadequate Training of Truck Drivers
Inexperienced truck drivers do not have the knowledge or training to avoid situations that can lead to auto collisions. An inadequately trained driver may not be capable to handle heavy traffic, mechanical failures, or inclement weather. If an accident occurs and you are injured, you may be entitled to compensation. To receive compensation, it must be shown that the truck driver or trucking company had a duty to you, breached that duty, and the breach caused injuries. There may be multiple parties who are liable for damages including the driver, the trucking company, and the trainer.
- Truck Driver. It is the truck driver's ultimate responsibility to obtain sufficient training, and if he violates his duty to act as a reasonable person would in a similar situation, then he may be liable.
- Trucking Company. It is the trucking company's responsibility to not hire or place inexperienced drivers on the road; to do so is a breach of duty and possible violation of laws.
- Trainer. Under the new mandatory standards, the training provider is responsible for determining if the applicant has the knowledge and skills to move forward with a CDL application. Though the driver must take tests, under certain circumstances the trainer may be held liable.
Have you been injured by a truck driver?
If you have been injured in an accident involving a truck, you need an experienced legal team to help you get the compensation you deserve. Our attorneys at Revo Smith Law have experience investigating truck accidents due to inadequate driver training. We know the trucking business, what technical issues to look for, and how to engage the trucking industry's attorneys. Contact Revo Smith Law today for a free consultation.