Trucks and semi-trailers often intimidate other drivers along local roads and interstates, as these large vehicles can pose a danger to occupants of other, smaller vehicles. We often think of the sheer size of large trucks and the destruction they can cause, but we may not consider the qualifications of the individuals in charge of operating these large trucks every day. An unqualified truck driver can mean the difference between life and death on the roadways. Unfortunately, unqualified truck drivers are common on the roads in San Diego and surrounding areas, and every day these drivers put passing motorists and their passengers in danger.
Can Anyone Work as a Truck Driver?
Operating a truck is a difficult job that involves long hours and little rest between trips. Oftentimes, people may wonder what qualifications drivers need to work as commercial truck drivers in the U.S., including in California. One of the few prerequisites to operate a large truck or semi-tractor-trailer vehicle is a commercial driver’s license (CDL).
Each state sets its own CDL regulations, and drivers must obtain a license for the state in which they reside. Once a truck driver has a CDL, that license is valid in all states where the driver travels for work. Unfortunately, this means that truck drivers may travel from other states with less-stringent requirements or oversight of their driving records and/or backgrounds to California. Less-qualified drivers can still travel to San Diego when they come from out of state or even out of the country.
Proximity to the Mexican Border Increases the Risk of Unqualified Truck Drivers in San Diego
San Diego is a port city and just a short drive from the Mexican border. The geographic location and shipping capabilities make it an appealing destination for shipments to enter and exit the country. This means a higher presence of large trucks and semis that travel on San Diego roadways each day, and often, foreign truck drivers operate these trucks.
Truck drivers that originate from Mexico can travel to drop off shipments in the U.S. or pick up shipments en route to Mexico. Under the trade and reciprocity agreements between the U.S. and Mexico, truck drivers that conduct these shipments must undergo a licensing process similar to the CDL licensing program in the U.S. However, enforcement of these licensing requirements and the driver’s qualifications to drive large trucks and semi-trailers often proves complicated, if not impossible, to confirm or oversee within the U.S.
This leaves the door open for unqualified international truck drivers to travel San Diego roadways and increase the risk of truck accidents with other vehicles.
The Requirements to Become a Truck Driver in California
Truck drivers within the state of California must possess a CDL to operate large trucks, including semis and tractor-trailer vehicles. Each state establishes different minimum requirements for an individual to qualify for this specialized commercial vehicle license.
California requirements to apply for a CDL:
- Drivers must first hold a Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP) for a minimum of 14 days before applying for a CDL.
- CLP requirements include:
- A driving record check of the past 10 years;
- Proof of identity and residency;
- Passing score on the knowledge test; and
- Drivers must have a California driver’s license before applying.
- Must be 18 years of age or older to drive for hire within California state lines.
- Must be 21 years of age or older to transport or haul hazardous materials between states.
- In most instances, drivers must pass a skills test to obtain a CDL.
What Can Disqualify a Driver From Maintaining a CDL in San Diego?
Many behaviors or actions can constitute grounds to revoke a commercial driver’s license in California. Under federal law, many circumstances can lead drivers to have their CDLs revoked or suspended. Disqualifying information can prevent truck drivers from obtaining an initial CDL and also lead to the loss of a current license.
Unfortunately, while many regulations aim to ensure the safety of the public sharing the roadways with truck drivers, enforcement of these rules can prove difficult. In many instances, drivers must self-report traffic violations to their state of residence and/or to their employer. Not all drivers will follow through with the expected reporting requirements when you consider how reporting certain violations may prevent drivers from fulfilling their work duties from a period of months to years. In addition, it is not uncommon in some instances for drivers to go to extreme lengths to commit fraud or drive illegally without proper licensing.
Examples of situations that should result in disqualification from operating a commercial vehicle include:
- Severe traffic offenses such as reckless driving, speeding, texting while driving, and operating a commercial truck without the proper license.
- Criminal convictions can also lead to disqualification, especially in situations where the crime occurred while operating a commercial vehicle, such as a DUI or transport of controlled or illegal substances.
What Dangers Do Unqualified Truck Drivers Pose?
Truck drivers that lack adequate qualifications should stay off San Diego roadways. Commercial truck drivers often transport shipments of hazardous materials, machinery, and other heavy cargo throughout our city’s neighborhood roads and highways. These massive vehicles and their loads pose a risk to the health and safety of the community on any given day, and when unqualified individuals operate these trucks, the risk of innocent bystanders and other vehicle occupants sustaining injuries increases drastically.
Inexperience, reckless tendencies, and irresponsible behaviors can cause a disaster and tragedy on the road. Trucks are deadly vessels that can cause horrific damage to property as well as to individuals. Many truck accidents end in fatalities for the occupants of other vehicles. Unqualified truck drivers pose a serious risk to anyone on the road, and their continued operation of commercial vehicles constitutes a pervasive and unfortunate problem.
Common truck accidents caused by unqualified truck drivers include:
- Underride or override collisions;
- Jack-knife accidents;
- Multi-vehicle pileups;
- Rollover accidents;
- Head-on collisions; and
- Run-away truck or cargo load.
Who Determines Whether Commercial Truck Drivers Meet the Required Qualifications?
While truck drivers hold the primary responsibility to ensure that they meet their state’s requirements to operate a commercial vehicle, other parties also evaluate drivers and oversee this process. Surprisingly, many regulations and laws expect that truck drivers will ultimately self-report safety violations and other incriminating actions to employers and the licensing governing bodies.
The state has oversight over truck drivers based on federal regulations, state laws, and licensing requirements; however, a state government cannot possibly keep track of all truck drivers and their qualifications. Often, the state is unaware of violations or disqualifications that take place unless the state entity responsible for oversight of truck drivers receives notice from the driver or a third party.
Interstate commerce further complicates the oversight of commercial drivers when violations occur out of state, as there is no centralized notification system of these violations. Oftentimes, states will not contact an affected driver’s state of residence to notify that licensing body of a potential disqualifying event that has taken place.
The brunt of the responsibility for assessing the qualifications of drivers operating commercial vehicles on the road lies with the drivers’ employers and/or the owners of the commercial vehicles being used. Employers are required to heavily vet potential truck drivers to ensure that they can safely operate a commercial vehicle. Employers should look into a potential driver’s driving record, criminal record, medical history, drug screenings, and employment history.
A failure to thoroughly complete a pre-employment background check can result in the hiring of an unqualified or dangerous truck driver, which is why in some cases employers may face responsibility for the actions of their employed truck drivers.
Why Do Unqualified Truck Drivers Remain on the Road?
Unqualified truck drivers can remain on the road, posing a hidden danger to motorists and passengers. In some cases, drivers may get away with misrepresenting their qualifications. Other instances may involve deliberate concealment of the truck drivers continuing to operate commercial vehicles in high-risk circumstances.
Negligent employers constitute one of the most worrying reasons unqualified truck drivers remain on the road. The reality is that truck drivers are often in high demand. With increased shipments, fast-approaching deadlines, and big contracts on the line, many employers may forgo a thorough investigation before employment, or turn a blind eye to violations, to protect their own bottom lines. When employers feel pressure to hire truckers quickly, employers and truck owners can make reckless decisions that put the public at risk.
Drivers Commit Fraud
Many individuals view truck driving as appealing jobs that can provide a decent income. Drivers desperate to work in the industry may commit fraud by tampering with licensing or embellishing their experience and training in an attempt to secure their livelihoods.
Slip Through the Cracks
To enforce driver suspensions or revocations of commercial driving licenses, the appropriate governing bodies must know of the problems. If these violations or other disqualifying actions go undiscovered, drivers will continue to operate these large trucks without interference until their employers or the state get wind of a violation or other disqualifying action.
What Happens When You Suffer an Injury in an Accident With an Unqualified Truck Driver?
If you sustain an injury in a truck accident, and the driver lacked the appropriate qualifications to operate the commercial vehicle involved, then you likely face a difficult road to recover your losses for the damages and injuries that you have sustained. Determining liability in truck accident cases can prove complicated and may require significant experience to manage successfully. Unlike passenger vehicle accidents, where liability usually falls squarely on the negligent driver, truck accident cases may involve liable drivers as well as employers and other third parties.
If an employer acted negligently in the hiring, training, or continued employment of a truck driver, and an accident and injuries have occurred due to the negligent actions of the unqualified driver, the driver’s employer (or another party) could face liability for your damages.
Truck accidents can cause devastating injuries that may end in a fatality or a lifetime of pain and suffering for victims. From medical bills to lost income and unexpected financial impacts to your future, a truck accident can turn your life upside down in an instant. When your injuries and damages result from the negligent actions of a truck driver, you may seek compensation for your losses under the law.
When you suffer injuries in a truck accident, you should contact a truck accident attorney as soon as possible to protect your legal rights. Insurance and trucking companies do not want to pay out a claim unless they have to. In many instances, those companies will do everything in their power to reduce their liability to you, or the damages that they will pay out for your losses.
Contact a truck accident lawyer today for an evaluation of your case and to discuss your options to fight for maximum compensation. Recovering mentally and physically after an accident with an unqualified truck driver can prove challenging. Don’t attempt to collect compensation on your own; contact an experienced San Diego unqualified truck driver accident attorney today to discuss the details of your case, ask questions about your legal options, and determine your eligibility to file a claim.