Shockingly, one of the most important things an 18-wheeler accident victim might need to find out is whether the trucker was qualified to drive in the first place. The chief resource for this is the driver qualification file all trucking companies are required to keep under federal safety regulations. Not surprisingly, trucking companies generally refuse to hand over that file voluntarily—it usually takes a lawsuit to get it.
Warning: the contents of that file can be truly startling. And the shock is not necessarily from what’s in it, but what’s not.
Driver Qualification File Contents
Here’s what a driver qualification file is supposed to contain:
- A comprehensive employment application, as required by federal law. This includes all accidents and traffic violations involving the trucker in the last three years, and all license suspensions ever.
- A driving record from each state licensing the trucker in the last three years.
- Proof the trucker could safely operate a big rig. This means passing a road test specified by federal law, or a copy of the license the trucking company accepted instead.
- The annual driving record requested by the trucking company on the trucker from each state he’s licensed in. This also requires a note recording the person who conducted the annual review.
- A record of traffic violations prepared by the trucker and given to his employer annually. This is a double-check to keep truckers and trucking companies honest.
- A certificate by a medical examiner proving the trucker is physically qualified to drive. And this is not a checkup—it is an extensive examination, legally requiring the examiner to be aware of the rigorous physical, mental, and emotional demands on truckers. To be eligible to drive, the medical examiner must certify the trucker has no condition that might affect his ability to safely operate a big rig.
Here’s What’s Actually in the Driver Qualification File
During what’s called the discovery process of your lawsuit, your attorney can obtain the driver qualification file for the big rig driver who caused your injuries. The big surprise is that sometimes, that file will have only a few of the required items. Sometimes, the files are completely empty.
If the file is incomplete, the trucking company can’t prove its driver was qualified to drive the truck that hurt you, meaning he shouldn’t have been driving.
Reviewing the file requires a skilled eye and thorough knowledge of federal regulations. Each component of the file must contain specific information required by federal law. Sometimes a review of the file shows it is missing annual driver record road test reviews or medical exams. In other cases, the file shows the driver failing road tests, or road tests given improperly. You might even discover driving records showing traffic violations that make the trucker ineligible to drive.
Another Reason to Choose a Trucking Lawyer
The impact of driver qualification file on your case is potentially enormous. It can provide proof the trucking company hurt you by turning loose a trucker who federal law forbids from driving an 18-wheeler. It can enhance your case against the trucking company to hold it responsible for carelessly hiring, training, or keeping its trucker employed. You can read more information on that by following the related links listed below.
Holes in the driver qualification file may show the root cause of the crash: the trucking company’s indifference to your safety. Sometimes a violation is so glaring it can increase your chances to obtain punitive damages. But finding these violations is not easy. It requires knowledge how to get the file, then a sharp eye and thorough knowledge of the law to build a convincing case around violations.
If you’ve suffered as a result of a semi-truck crash in Spartanburg, Greenville, Cherokee, Union or anywhere in South Carolina, feel free to contact us in the best way for you to discuss how we can help build a case for you. You can call us at 864.582.0416 or toll free at 888.230.1841, or start an email or live chat right where you are. Also feel free to check out our free report on South Carolina traffic accident cases, which contains a chapter about tractor-trailer cases.
Related Links:Federal Laws Try to Protect You From Overworked Truckers