The trucking industry is responsible for transporting over 70 percent of freight in the United States. However, according to the American Trucking Associations (ATA), there is a significant shortage of commercial truck drivers in the United States. To keep the supply chain running smoothly, truck companies must hire experienced drivers who have been professionally trained and certified. Unfortunately, some truck companies address the shortage by rushing to hire truck drivers, many who have not been trained properly on how to safely operate an 80,000-pound commercial truck. With over three million commercial trucks delivering goods and services across the country, the risk of devastating truck accidents and fatalities will increase if truck drivers do not receive necessary training.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), truck accidents cause more than 5,000 fatalities and over 100,000 injuries each year. However, recent studies show that approximately 27 percent of truck accidents could have been prevented if the truck driver received adequate training. Truck drivers who complete effective training programs are able to react to a wide range of unexpected traffic events, as well as avoid collisions or minimize the severity of an accident.
What are the Requirements of Obtaining a Commercial Driver’s License?
All commercial truck drivers must obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to operate a big rig. There are four basic steps to obtaining a CDL, including the following:
- Review the basic requirements. There are both minimum age and physical requirements that a driver must meet to qualify for a CDL.
- Obtain a CDL permit. As with a regular driver’s license, a driver must secure a permit before they can obtain a CDL. To obtain a Class A CDL permit, the driver must pass a series of written examinations on general knowledge, air brakes, and combination vehicles.
- Add CDL endorsements. Drivers may be required to pass the CDL endorsement test. In addition, some endorsements, including the Hazardous Materials (HazMat) endorsement, may require a background check to be added.
- Complete a CDL skills test. Drivers must complete a three-part driving test that includes a pre-trip inspection test, a basic control test, and a driving test that will take place at a state CDL test site or an approved third-party test site.
Are Commercial Truck Driving Schools Doing Enough to Train Drivers?
Just because a truck driver has a CDL does not necessarily mean that he or she is fully prepared to operate a large commercial truck. Commercial driving schools provide hands-on time behind the wheel, both at the practice facility and in real-world conditions. They also provide inspection training, information on staying in compliance with Department of Transportation laws, and identifying and addressing maintenance issues. Unfortunately, many commercial driving schools claim that their training program can have truck drivers on the road in just two weeks. They focus on graduating as many drivers as possible rather than ensuring they are well trained. Moreover, because the majority of this time is spent in the classroom, it does not leave nearly enough time for a new truck driver to get experience behind the wheel.
When the trainee begins the driving portion of the training, they learn how to navigate the truck through an obstacle course. Once they complete this portion of the training, they begin to drive through towns and cities, and eventually on interstate highways. Trainees are given a CDL after just a few hours of actual drive time. Depending on the trucking company, some require new drivers to ride with a more experienced driver, while other companies hire drivers directly out of school who have little to no experience.
What Should Truck Driver Training Programs Cover?
For a truck driver to safely operate a large commercial truck in a range of environments, he or she must be sufficiently trained in the following areas:
- All road signs, rules, and regulations
- How to safely maneuver large capacity loads
- Driving on the road
- Understanding how to drive different types of vehicles
- Turning, backing up, and other maneuvers
- Managing logs
- Proper signage
What are the Dangers of Poor Truck Driver Training?
Learning how to safely operate a commercial truck is much different than learning how to drive a car. It requires a great deal of training to understand how to operate and handle such a massive vehicle. When one combines an inexperienced driver with an 80,000-pound commercial truck, a devastating truck accident could result in extensive property damage and fatal injuries. Considering that at 55 miles per hour, a fully loaded commercial truck will not come to a complete stop for the entire length of a football field , a poorly trained driver may not be able to stop that truck in time to avoid a catastrophic accident. Truck companies have a responsibility to ensure that their drivers are properly trained and that they follow all FMCSA guidelines. When truck drivers do not receive the necessary training, the following can happen:
- Driving off the road
- Slowing down or stopping too late
- Turns that are executed poorly or improperly
- Driving too fast for road or weather conditions
- Hitting the brakes too hard, causing sliding or jackknifing
- Violating hours of service regulations
- Drowsy driving
- Turning or changing lanes too quickly, which can cause the truck to flip over
What are Other Common Causes of Truck Accidents?
According to the FMCSA, the following are common factors that can lead to a truck accident, many of which may be avoided if the truck driver received the appropriate training:
- Driving while under the influence of alcohol or prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, or illegal drugs
- Traveling too fast for road conditions
- Lack of familiarity with the vehicle or roadway
- Failure to assess and appropriately respond to road conditions
- Drowsy driving
- Unsafe lane changes or other illegal road maneuvers
- Driving while distracted
- Tailgating, weaving in and out of traffic, or other types of aggressive driving
Who is Liable for a Truck Accident Involving a Poorly Trained Driver?
Truck companies are legally responsible for ensuring that their truck drivers are qualified and competent. Once a driver is hired, the truck company is responsible for the driver’s actions, as well as the consequences of those actions. If a new, recently hired driver only learned the basics, the truck company must ensure that the driver receives additional training before operating a commercial truck alone. When a truck accident is caused by a commercial truck driver who received little to no training, it is likely that the truck company will be held liable for any injuries that the accident caused.
What Should Someone Do When Injured in a Truck Accident?
Truck accidents can cause life-threatening injuries to passenger vehicle occupants. Therefore, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention. If physically able, call 911 to report the accident and tell the operator to send an ambulance. Depending on the severity of the injuries, victims may be rushed to the nearest hospital for treatment. Next, it is advised to contact an experienced catastrophic injury lawyer who can investigate the accident, examine the evidence, and determine whether the collision occurred because the truck driver was poorly trained. If a lawyer is able to prove that lack of training was the cause of the accident, the trucking company will be considered negligent and can be held liable for any injuries. Those injured will be able to pursue compensation for all medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Los Angeles Catastrophic Injury Lawyers at ACTS Law Secure Maximum Compensation for Victims of Truck Accidents
If you were seriously injured in a truck accident involving a driver who was not properly trained, do not hesitate to contact the Los Angeles catastrophic injury lawyers at ACTS Law at your earliest convenience. We understand how devastating these accidents can be, particularly when the crash could have been avoided if the driver received the necessary training. Our dedicated legal team will work closely with you to ensure that you receive the maximum financial compensation you deserve. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 833-ACTS-LAW or contact us online. From our offices in San Diego and Los Angeles, we serve clients throughout southern California.