We get calls all the time from people asking questions about truck drivers and background checks. So, I wanted to take a few minutes to explain the different parts that make up a background check and mention who knows how to put together that kind of information.
Past behavior is often a good indication of future behavior.
It's not my intention to pick on truck drivers here. I know that there are plenty of good drivers with no past history of incidents that are involved in accidents through sheer coincidental misfortune. But the reality is that the majority of accidents are caused by a few bad apples who have a history of poor driving, and crashes, sometimes even fatal ones, that trucking companies still allow to get behind the wheel and drive recklessly.
Let me give you an example of a case my firm handled. It involved a truck driver that we ultimately found out was driving while blitzed on cocaine. He crashed into a car, killing the driver. As it would turn out, a similar incident, in which someone was injured due to his negligent driving while under the influence of drugs, had occurred while he had been employed by another company. In that case, history repeated itself, and his past misconduct was certainly relevant to the case at hand. Unfortunately, this sort of thing is all too common. That's why it's so important for law firms like ours to take the time to put together background checks when an accident occurs. In many cases, only considering the details of the particular crash under litigation may not tell the whole story.
What do we look for in a truck driver's background check?
There are several different kinds of reports and associated information we look for when we put together a background check on a truck driver.
- Driving History - We look for a past history of accidents, what kind of tickets and moving violations the driver has been issued, if their license has ever been suspended, if their vehicle has ever been out of service for mechanical issues (which could mean they've neglected to keep their vehicle properly maintained), and if they've been involved in any prior litigation related to a commercial truck crash.
- Employment Background - We look to see if they've been disciplined or fired, if they've failed drug tests, what kind of training they've received, etc.
- Criminal Background - Let me be clear: this isn't a witch hunt. I know that a person having criminal incidents in their past doesn't indicate they will absolutely continue to commit crimes. As a result, we don't focus too heavily on this aspect. That being said, criminal behavior does potentially indicate a history of poor decision making, and if a look at past criminal behavior reveals a pattern of poor decision making, that could indicate they will continue to act in a way that shows a lack of regard for the rules.
- Documentation of Work - We'll look at driver's logs (which show us if and when the driver took legally required breaks) and communication with dispatch (which can take place in verbal or text form) to determine whether or not they've been driving for longer than permitted. (For the protection of the public, federal regulations set limits on how long truck drivers are legally allowed to drive without a break.)
- Department of Transportation Records - These will tell us the real dirt on the driver and this is usually the most pertinent information we receive.
Know that the trucking company will fight you.
Let's look back at the example I shared with you earlier where the truck driver killed someone while under the influence of cocaine. It took an incredible amount of legal work to bring that information to light for several reasons. The police did not perform a drug test at the time of the accident. The employer did run a test, but resisted sharing that information with us for almost 9 months. Ultimately, after multiple hearings and several heated evidentiary battles, the judge ordered the release of this information to us, which is how we were finally able to get an idea of what really happened.
We were also able to find out that the driver's previous employer had sent a letter to his current company warning them not to hire this individual because of his past record of drug use in accidents. Because his current employer was therefore demonstrably aware that the driver was responsible for wrecks in the past while under the influence, we were able to prove that the employer was guilty of negligent hiring. As you can imagine, this completely changed the landscape of the case, and gave us the leverage needed to broker a fair settlement for the decedent's children. In this case as in so many others, background checks have helped us to uncover some critical pieces of evidence about accidents with 18-wheelers.