The starting point for determining carrier responsibility is that as the employer of a driver, the carrier is responsible under a doctrine of respondent/superior. The issues get considerably more complicated when the driver was an “independent trucker.” Then it may be necessary to find liability against the carrier on other legal theories.
The starting point for all such theories would be the requirements for carriers under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. Generally, those Regulations create an obligation on the
carrier to see to it that the drivers are in compliance with all Safety rules applicable to them, in addition to creating independent obligations on the carriers to inspect, comply and to make sure the drivers are complying with all regulations.
A carrier has a duty to take steps to prevent injury to the driving public by determining the competency of its drivers to operate a commercial vehicle. A carrier is responsible to obtain background information on a potential driver before he can be hired. A carrier can be held negligent if they fail to obtain such information.
A carrier that fails to prepare or maintain records or maintains a required record that is incomplete, inaccurate or is false, is subject to the commencement of civil proceedings by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration as well as fines.
Unsafe Acts by Passenger Vehicle Drivers
Truck crashes are high profile events. These types of crashes result in about 60 percent of all fatal crashes. The following list contains some of the common unsafe acts committed by passenger vehicle drivers.
- Driving inattentively (reading, talking on the phone, fatigue-induced)
- Merging improperly into traffic, causing a truck to maneuver or brake quickly
- Failure to stop for a stop sign or light
- Failure to slow down in a construction zone
- Unsafe speed (approaching too fast from the rear/misjudging truck's speed)
- Following too closely
- Failure to slow down in response to environmental conditions (fog, rain, snow, smoke, bright sunshine)
- Changing lanes abruptly in front of a truck
- Driving in the “no-zones” (left rear quarter, right front quarter, directly behind)
- Unsafe turning
- Unsafe passing
- Pulling into traffic from roadside in front of truck without accelerating sufficiently
- Driving between large trucks
The following suggestions may help motorists to improve the odds when sharing the road with large commercial vehicles:
- Keep visible – stay out of the “no-zones” – when behind a truck stay far enough back to be able to see both side mirrors on the truck
- Maintain a safe distance to ensure that there is adequate space and time to brake
- Drive defensively
- Use signals to turn or pass and avoid sudden moves such as swerving to pass
- Keep lights on and windshield wipers working on rainy days