DATE: 01/31/2010


REFERENCE: FMCSR 391.23 – Investigation & Inquiries


How the Incident Occurred

After he’d dropped his trailer to be unloaded the truck driver turned up his stereo and bob-tailed down to the local truck stop to grab a bite to eat. He was enjoying his very first dispatch for the trucking company he’d just hired on with. It was a bright sunny day with ideal driving conditions. After making a quick left turn into the truck stop parking lot, he was looking for a place to park his tractor when he noticed some people running out to the street where he’d just made his turn in. Before he knew it, there was a loud pounding on his door. It was the fuel island attendant wildly trying to get his attention. When he turned off the radio and rolled the window down and heard the employee yell "Mr. - you just ran over a motorcycle!" The driver was non-responsive to this news and when drug tested by the police, tested positive for cocaine.

Injury/Damage Information

The motorcyclist was a well known local attorney. With clear right-of-way he did not anticipate the trucker’s unexpected left turn in front of him. Laying his bike on its left side, he slid under the right tandems, suffering multiple internal injuries. Treated at the scene and life-lined by helicopter, he was DOA. His Harley Davidson was totaled. The driver was convicted of vehicular homicide. The trucking company was sued for negligent entrustment of a commercial motor vehicle and later forced into bankruptcy.

Causative factors

  • The ultimate cause of this collision was the trucking company’s failure to conduct a proper background investigation on the truck driver.
  • The truck driver had listed two previous employers over the immediately preceding 3- year period on his application. Both of the companies he’d listed had since gone out of business.
  • The trucking company HR manager’s Investigation and Inquiry for his previous employment was to simply initial and date the application and write "out of business".
  • The driver was drug tested as part of his pre-hire processing, but the company was confident that he would pass and dispatched him prior to receiving the test results which were positive.
  • The HR manager had run a pre-employment MVR that came back with no violations listed.
  • It was eventually discovered that the reason the MVR was clear was because rather than working for the "out of business" companies, the driver had actually been in prison for the previous three years due to felony possession of cocaine.

Remedial actions

  • Conduct thorough background investigations on all new hires. This includes employment, driving record, drug & alcohol and criminal background checks. NEVER dispatch a driver prior to completing the background checks, physical and drug testing.
  • FMCSR 391.23 is only the minimum compliance standard and does not quantify industry best standards for driver qualification. Companies that hire commercial drivers (this includes any vehicle > 10,001 lbs. used commercially) should establish hiring standards than exceed the federal or state minimums and that maximize the opportunity for them to hire safe, conscientious drivers.
  • All information listed on the Driver Application for Employment must be verified. If any areas of the application are left blank or incomplete – do not accept it. Either file away as "incomplete safety data" or give back to the applicant to complete. Never fill in anything for the applicant.
  • Require proof of past employment. If the company is out of business, ask for the names of the safety personnel or require W-2’s, 1099’s or other tax records that will validate employment periods.
  • Even if a prior employer is no longer in business, it is still reasonable to ask who the applicant’s former supervisor(s) were. How can they be contacted? Even if the applicant says they don’t know, it is still reasonable to attempt to find their former supervisor(s) through directory information and attempt to contact them.

Even if an applicant says they did not drive commercially during the previous three years, you must verify all of the information they list on the application. The federal regulations require that all employment in the most recent three years be verified and that any such employment that required drug testing be identified. Periods of unemployment or employment with companies that cannot be reached for validation must be verified through other sources such as tax records, union records, or contacting persons who would have valid information regarding the driver’s employment history. If critical information cannot be obtained, consider passing on potential employment. Ultimately it will be left up to a jury to determine whether your efforts were reasonable and in the best interests of public safety.

Once you have established minimum hiring standards, post them and require that all persons involved in the hiring process be familiar with them and follow them. Remember, you hire 90% of your problems. By establishing high standards and abiding by them, you will be taking the first and most important step in preventing accidents.

Nothing has a greater affect on fleet safety than Driver Behavior.

The most critical vehicle component is the "Nut that Holds the Wheel"