Loose Selection and Enforcement Standards Make Some Truckers Fear Their Own Industry.

Michael GrossmanDecember 13, 2016 4 minutes

Have you heard the expression "one bad apple spoils the bunch?" I know it's a little folksy, but most people recognize its meaning without too much strain: Take a generally-benign group and introduce an element that is decidedly less so. Over time, this foreign element will corrupt the larger group, and the more the corruption spreads, the more quickly it will ruin the rest. Today I want to talk about how the saying applies in the context of truck drivers.

Truck Accident Wrongful Death Attorneys Are Not "Anti-Trucking."

Looking at the blog, you might think we at the firm are opposed to the commercial-driving profession as a whole, but that could not be further from the truth. We may have a lot to say about acts of negligence by drivers or their employers, but for every truck that flips or crashes, hundreds more provide a necessary service in a safe and reliable manner. We are acutely aware of this, and of the nation's dependence on reliable truckers. After all, tractor-trailers are responsible for moving around 70% of all freight tonnage in the United States. To quote the American Trucking Association: "Without trucks, America stops.

Our goal has never been to cast doubts on the validity or necessity of trucking. We are not "anti-trucking;" we are simply "anti-negligence." Ethical, responsible drivers do not enter our crosshairs, though in cases where vehicle failure causes injuries, we might still look askance at their employers. Even then, it is only a small percent of trucking firms that come under scrutiny for their practices.

Personal injury law is reactive, not proactive. By that I mean the firm generally assists plaintiffs with what has happened, not with what could happen. Unless a driver or his/her employer has committed a specific and injurious act, they are unlikely to be confronted by injury attorneys. At that point, the attorney's only goal would be to determine the truth of the situation, and to ensure that if compensation is due, that the injured party receives what he or she deserves.

The Bunch Is Aware of the Bad Apples.

As further proof that the firm doesn't simply tilt at every windmill it sees, please note the following post from an Internet forum for truck drivers:

trucker unsafe quote

As you can see, drivers within the industry are also very concerned about the presence of irresponsible or impaired truckers, to the point where it has made them consider hanging up their proverbial spurs. The fear of being run off the road, crashed into, or otherwise compromised has rendered this driver in particular so concerned for his own safety that it is causing job-related anxiety.

The responses to this initial post ran something of a gamut, though generally a supportive one. Other drivers suggested going without the long-haul runs that caused the poster such concern; others were adamant that virtually every driver poses a hazard and the only thing he can do is grin and bear it. Of course, some suggested he simply quit if he "can't hack it," but it's probably asking too much of the Internet to find even a single forum where no one is obnoxious. Some posters agreed with the original, with one noting that "Lack of talent in this industry is becoming all too familiar."

In that assertion, we find the crux of the issue: Trucking is a booming industry, to the point where qualified drivers are something of a limited commodity. To maintain freight volume and keep their contracts, firms are often desperate to get more trucks on the road. Because of this urgent need, the industry leavens its dwindling base of skilled, knowledgable drivers with virtually anyone who can qualify for a Commercial Driver's License (CDL). These days it seems like "anyone who can fog a mirror" is getting behind the wheel of a 40-ton vehicle, often traveling interstate at 70 or more miles per hour. If you felt a reflexive shudder when you read that, congratulations! You are sane.

The Industry Needs to Own Its Share of the Issue.

The firms willing to ever-so-slightly relax their hiring criteria must then do what they can to support their appointed drivers. To do that, they often have to loosen their policy-enforcement standards as well. Minor infractions are overlooked so long as nobody else knows about them. Big wrecks often involve the trucker calling his company before he calls 911, and the firm's insurance adjustors arriving at the scene in order to arrive at a narrative that avoids liability. Even vehicle inspections and driver physicals are sometimes performed with lax standards.

As less-qualified drivers saturate the interstate shipping lanes, fears like the ones expressed by that forum participant become more prevalent. Trucking is a vital component of the supply chain, but safety must in turn be essential to the enterprise. Laxity can't be allowed when you're sending a gas-filled juggernaut out on the same roads used by the general public. Put a drunk driver behind that big-rig's wheel, or one with a history of irresponsible driving, or someone who drives 90 nonstop hours because he has a pocket full of ephedrine tablets, and you knowingly endanger hundreds of other motorists.

I'm not just picking on trucking, either--no industry is truly free of "bad apples." The same principles of careful selection and oversight apply basically everywhere. For instance, just a few short months ago the legal profession saw one of its own making the wrong kind of headlines. No matter the occupation--retail, technology, medicine, transportation, even the clergy--there is sometimes occasion to fear one's peers. Even rigorous selection processes can't catch all the bad elements, but that doesn't mean they aren't effective at straining out a significant number.

Pre-screening candidates is especially important in fields where a measure of competence is needed in order to maintain the safety of others. Lawyers and doctors can't practice without considerable qualification efforts, including schooling and field experience. I wouldn't trust the bloke who bagged my groceries to replace my house's wiring; I would seek a certified professional with a positive performance record. The same holds true for freight hauling; while I understand and appreciate that a trucking firm's solvency requires ample available drivers, if those employees are incompetent or dangerous, that firm's questionable judgment in hiring them could get someone hurt.

We're obviously not in charge of the trucking industry, and we can't make them behave. It just seems like they should know that it is in their best interests not to conduct business in a manner that terrifies their own employees.