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Are Inexperienced Truck Drivers More Risky?

As the employment squeeze inevitably drags on, more and more fleets are resorting to lowering their standards. Carriers need to fill seats, and if the government is talking about lowering the commercial driving age to 18, there’s nothing wrong with an inexperienced driver, right?

It’s no secret that companies are very motivated to get someone in the seat and get the truck moving. If the under-21 CDL holder law does change, expect this issue to become compounded. So, is there a problem here?

The Costs of Inexperience

With the shortage of truck drivers, companies are now turning a blind eye to hiring people with little to no commercial truck driving experience. The hope is that they will work out, cause little to no damage, and stay over the long term.

While this makes sense on the surface, trucking companies who hire woefully inexperienced or unqualified truck drivers may be opening themselves up to more risk than it’s worth. When a company is hiring someone so green, the costs associated with recruiting, hiring, training, and retaining the driver must be considered.

Fleets also expose themselves to lawsuits on both sides of the coin. If someone isn’t hired who is qualified to work, they risk being sued. On the other side, if the operator is involved in a serious accident, there is a serious litigation concern there, as well. The fact is, hiring the right person is crucial to the success of a trucking company, and plaintiff’s attorneys know this.

In a Litigious World

In a case where an attorney can prove to a jury that a fleet did not hire a truck driver who met the acceptable competency standard, a negligent hiring lawsuit may result. Incomplete paperwork can also result in a lawsuit. This is why it’s important to make sure the federally mandated legalese is signed, sealed, and delivered.

If a case is won, the results could be financially disastrous for a trucking company, especially if they are small- to medium-sized operations. Punitive damages may not be covered by the insurance company. As a matter of fact, in some states, insurance companies are not allowed to cover punitive damages.

For small trucking companies, this means they would be responsible for paying any damages, a result that could put them out of business. The takeaway here is to proceed with caution when you’re hiring new truck drivers, but still don’t discount everyone out of a blanket fear of potential lawsuits.

What to Look For

So, you’ve decided you don’t want to be sued for negligent hiring, but you still want to make sure you are getting the best candidate possible. Now what?

If you are considering hiring someone with less than two years of CDL experience, here are some key items to look for:

  • Do they have a solid employment history? If so, does it contain experience in industries such as agriculture, military, or mechanical?
  • Is their motor-vehicle record clean?
  • Have they had any experience in a professional truck driving school?
  • Do they meet Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulatory guidelines?
  • Do you have an appropriate driver training program?
  • What type of routes will this person be traveling? Will they be operating in busy cities?
  • How is your history with your current insurance carrier? Furthermore, how is your loss ratio?

If you are ever in doubt about what move you should make, consider consulting with a risk advisor. They will be able to help you weigh the pros and cons in making any hiring decision.

In the end, it’s far better to be cautious up front than regretful later. Whatever you do, establish consistent hiring practices and stick to them. This is one of the best things you can do to insulate your company from any negligent hiring lawsuits.

Formulate policies that name specific disqualifiers. Don’t let them change with the flow of applicants. Make this information public and share it with all of your employees and applicants.

Remember, hiring inexperienced drivers doesn’t have to be a no-go. Just make sure you’ve done your due diligence before opening the hiring floodgates.

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