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Lawyers Suggest New Trucker Screening System Could Prevent Truck Accidents

November 3, 2009 by Steven M. Gursten

If you read the series of blogs I’ve written about America’s bad trucking companies lately, you know how strongly I feel about the importance of truck accident lawyers having the ability to discover the crash history and illegal drug and alcohol abuse of truckers. About 15 people are killed every day as a result of truck accidents, creating a public safety crisis in Michigan and across the nation. But an amazing new development has occurred that might really start making a difference in protecting the public and keeping unfit truckers off our roads.

On Friday, the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), announced it was awarding NIC Technologies, LLC, the contract for a National Motor Carrier Pre-Employment Screening System.

This new service is designed to spread commercial truck drivers‘ safety and driver performance history as part of a more comprehensive pre-employment screening process. It will assist the trucking industry in assessing individual operators’ crash and safety violation inspection history as a pre-employment condition. Drivers will also be able to obtain their individual history.

The new system launch as early as December 2009. It will be developed and maintained using a self-funded, transaction-based model. It is anticipated that users of the service will pay a subscription fee of $100 per year and a $10 transaction fee for each record pulled. There will be additional fees for records requested via fax or mail. Individual truck drivers requesting their own record will not be subject to any subscription fee.

As an experienced truck accident lawyer who has spoken and testified about the dangerous lack of safety today regarding truckers and trucking companies that choose to disregard mandatory truck safety laws, I applaud the Obama administration and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. I hope Secretary LaHood is indeed correct when he said, “Safety is our number one priority at the Department of Transportation. This new initiative will help trucking companies ensure the safest drivers are behind the wheel of commercial trucks and buses…Making this information more transparent will make our roads and highways safer for everyone.”

How the Pre-Employment Screening System Can Help Truck Accident Lawyers

For lawyers handling truck accident cases, this new service could also be an incredibly important new source of discovery about the truck driver who causes a crash. Lawyers should add this to standard interrogatories to trucking companies to see if they have subscribed or checked new hires with this service. (Visit our web page on how to use SafeStat to determine the safety of any truck company in the U.S.)

I’ve blogged and lectured to other trucking lawyers about new theories of liability, including making available a former employer’s insurance policy limits for failure to report past safety violations. I wonder if this new service may also open up new avenues of liability to trucking companies that routinely ignore their obligations under the FMCSR to report accidents, as well as drug and alcohol violations of former employees who then go on to cause serious crashes.

It seems that a company that fails to report similar violations to this new service may also be vulnerable, and rightly so, for a claim against it for violating reporting requirements in the type of case where the new employer would argue it never would have hired an obviously unfit truck driver if past safety violations had been evident.

My thanks to my friend, Joe Fried, at Fried, Rogers, Goldberg in Atlanta for alerting me to this new development. Keep up the great work and results, Joe.

– Photo courtesy of Creative Commons, by jakebwotha

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