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Pre-Employment Drug Screening for Truckers – Houston Personal Injury Lawyers

Negligent Entrustment of a Trucking Company and The Failure to Properly Screen Truck Drivers

There are almost three million tractor trailers that travel the nation’s highways in a given year and with so many on the road, accidents with other motorists are a common occurrence. Nearly 113,000 tractor trailer accidents yearly and almost 3500 of those result in fatalities. Many of these accidents would be prevented if the trucking companies follow the federal requirements regarding pre-employment background and drug screening.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires that trucking companies perform pre-employment background checks for every driver they hire. Trucking companies must investigate a potential driver’s employment history and driving record, conduct screenings for drugs and alcohol, and check for any drug or alcohol related violations in the truck driver’s background. The failure to perform pre-employment background checks leads to accidents and injuries that might otherwise be preventable.

If you have been injured in a tractor trailer accident it may be difficult for you to obtain the trucking company’s records to determine whether they followed the federal law requiring pre-employment background checks on their driver. Trucking companies have been known to hide or destroy these records to prevent injured plaintiffs from demonstrating the trucking company’s failure to comply with the federal requirements. The attorneys at the Our Law Office know how to investigate the trucking company and its drivers. We know what reports need to be produced to verify whether the required pre-employment screening was conducted by the trucking company and if its negligence in failing to do so was a factor in your injuries.

An Ounce of Prevention

As the old saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Though an old and often used term, this statement is still nonetheless true. In this case the “ounce of prevention” is the trucking company’s duty to perform pre-employment background and drug screening, and the “pound of cure” is compensating a motorist that has been injured as the result of an accident with a tractor trailer driver who had no business on the roads. The best prevention is taking the necessary steps to reduce the occurrence of an accident in the first place.

In an effort to reduce the number of accidents involving motorists and tractor trailers, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has enacted an extensive driver screening program for the trucking industry to follow in order to keep unsafe tractor trailer drivers off the road. However, the program can only be effective if those responsible for hiring tractor trailer drivers – the trucking companies—actually use it. The FMCSA driver pre-employment screening program focuses on two key areas. First the trucking company must obtain an employment and driving history for the driver for the previous three years. Second, the trucking company must obtain the driver’s drug and alcohol violation history for the previous three years as well as conduct its own drug screening on the driver. Each of the steps outlined in the FMCSA’s pre-employment screening program is important in keeping dangerous and unqualified drivers off the road and minimizing the number of preventable accidents that occur each year.

Pre-Employment Driving History

As part of the FMCSA’s pre-employment driver screening program trucking companies are required to obtain a driver’s employment and driving history for the previous three years. This is an important factor in preventing accidents because many times a driver’s employment or driving history reveals their record for drug use, carelessness or reckless driving.

When a driver applies for employment with a trucking company, part of the due diligence the trucking company must perform involves obtaining the driver’s license and driving history. The trucking company should review any driving violations, accidents, and tickets received by the truck driver in this time period. The FMCSA has made it easier than ever for trucking companies to obtain this information. The agency is making data available on driver safety and post-crash violations, in addition to the roadside inspection and crash records that employers already can see using this system. The Internet-based pre-employment screening program gives the trucking companies five years of an applicant’s crash history and three years of his inspection history. The data is drawn from the Motor Carrier Management Information System and includes the same information that is used by agency staff and state police for enforcement. There is simply no excuse for a trucking company’s failure to conduct this basic check and if you are injured by their negligence in doing so, the lawyers at Our Law Office are here to help.

Pre-Employment Substance Abuse History

In addition to a trailer truck driver’s driving history, the trucking companies have a legal duty to obtain reports from the driver’s previous employers regarding any drug or alcohol violations. Trucking companies must request information related to substance abuse history from prior employers. Specifically, a prospective employer must verify whether an applicant has failed a drug or alcohol test from all employers for the three years prior to the date of hire. The trucking company must request the results of alcohol tests with a result of 0.04 or higher alcohol concentration, verified positive drug tests, and refusals by the truck driver to be tested, and other violations of DOT agency drug and alcohol testing regulations. Additionally the trucking company should not have the driver on the road until this information has been received and verified.

If a tractor trailer driver has a history of drug and alcohol abuse or DOT violations, these factors serve as a warning to potential employers about the risk a driver like this brings to the highway. Logically, once made aware of this risk the trucking company can reduce the risk of an accident involving this driver by simply not hiring them. Obtaining the driver’s employment and driving history prior to employment is not only good business sense for the trucking company, it is also required by law.

If you have been injured in a tractor trailer accident one of the first things that needs to be secured for your case are the results of the pre-employment driving history and employment check conducted by the trucking company. Trucking companies are not always forth coming with these documents because by not complying with the federal requirements their negligence can be a major factor that works in your favor. The trucking company will throw many hurdles in your way to prevent you from obtaining these documents, or even flat out refuse to provide them to you. The lawyers at the Our Law Office have extensive experience dealing with trucking companies and we know how to obtain these records and we know how to argue that the records demonstrate negligence on the part of the trucking company.

Pre-Employment Drug and Alcohol Screening

Under federal law, trucking companies must have the driver complete a pre-employment screen for alcohol and drugs before a driver is allowed to operate a tractor trailer on the highways. The drug screen must be negative and the alcohol test must come back at a consummation level less than .04%. If the driver does not pass the drug and alcohol screens, the trucking company should not allow the driver to perform truck driving duties. In addition to performing the drug and alcohol screenings mentioned above, the trucking companies must also provide their truck drivers with educational materials explaining its policies and procedures about alcohol and controlled substances. While some policies are pretty obvious such as no alcohol or drugs may be used while on duty, some may not be as obvious and should be carefully outlined in the trucking company’s policies and procedures. For example, drivers need to understand which substances prescribed by a doctor are allowed for use on duty and which are not.

If you have been injured in an accident with a tractor trailer and the driver was found to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs it is extremely important that any pre-employment drug and alcohol screen results are obtained. Not only will this demonstrate whether the trucking company complied with federal law by conducting the tests in the first place, but the results can also demonstrate the trucking company’s knowledge of potential drug or alcohol abuse by its employee. Additionally the trucking company’s policies concerning drug and alcohol use should be obtained as well. Having these documents will allow your attorney to lay the foundation of your claim surrounding the trucking company’s negligence in complying with the federal trucking laws.

The Pre-Employment Policies Protect The Public

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Department of Transportation put laws in place to govern the commercial trucking industry for the safety of the public. These laws and regulations work to prevent accidents and keep us safe from reckless and negligent tractor trailer drivers and the trucking companies that employ them. Trucking companies have a legal duty to conduct the pre-employment screenings required by the FMCSA and their failures to do so often results in needless preventable accidents and injuries to motorists.

Even when they have clearly violated the federal laws that govern their industry trucking companies will still aggressively defend any claims against them when one of their drivers injures a motorist. They have teams of attorneys looking for any way to minimize their liability and deny you access to the records that help to prove their negligence in failing to conduct the required pre-employment tests on their drivers. You need attorneys on your side that know how to compel the trucking companies and their lawyers to produce this information to help with your claim. Getting these documents as soon as possible after your injury increases the likelihood of their availability for trial. If you have been injured, please call Our Law Office today.

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