It takes a highly skilled and trained driver to operate a large commercial truck weighing up to 80,000 pounds. These massive vehicles pose a significant threat to Tennessee motorists when the trucks are operated by incompetent drivers. People who have been involved in a devastating truck accident may have sustained a severe injury, extensive property damage and emotional trauma. Some may have lost a loved one as a result of truck driver negligence. It may be difficult to determine who to hold liable for the extensive damage created in a complicated truck accident. Although many people place the blame solely on the negligent truck driver, the trucking company may also bear responsibility for the collision, and the turmoil it creates.
Truck company responsibilities
Truck companies are responsible for hiring qualified truck drivers who are able to do their job well. Some of their responsibilities include:
- Ensuring that all drivers have taken and passed a drug test and criminal background check.
- Ensuring that all drivers have a clean driving record, free from any significant accidents or penalties.
- Ensuring that all drivers have a valid commercial driver’s license that has not been altered in any way.
- Ensuring that each truck in the fleet is functioning properly, and that all safety equipment is well maintained.
According to the American Trucking Association, there are currently 30,000 to 35,000 available truck driving positions in the U.S. and more freight than trucking companies can handle. In an attempt to meet strict deadlines and move more freight, some trucking companies may ignore federal Hours of Service regulations, which dictate how much time a driver can spend behind the wheel.
Case in point
A high-profile truck accident involving famed actor and comedian Tracy Morgan brought national attention to the issue of negligent trucking companies and truck drivers. According to Businessweek, Morgan and several other passengers who were traveling in a limousine that was rear-ended by a commercial truck have filed a third-party lawsuit against the trucking company responsible for hiring and scheduling the truck driver.
The well-known trucking company had sent the driver to pick up his truck, which was located 700 miles away from his residence in Georgia. Once the truck driver arrived in Delaware, he picked up his 40 ton tractor trailer and started his normal driving shift. When he smashed into Morgan’s limousine in New Jersey, he had been awake for 24 hours. In addition to violating the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s restrictions on driving time, the tractor trailer involved in the accident was equipped with advanced safety technology that was not working properly when the accident occurred.
Trucking companies can be held liable for any damage, injuries and loss of life that occurs as a result of driver negligence, according to a legal doctrine referred to as respondeat superior. This theory simply states that an employer may be held liable for their employees’ actions if they occur within the realm of their employment. The exact liability charges are ultimately dependent on each unique truck accident case.