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Who is Behind the Wheel of a Semi? (And Why you Should Care)

by | May 27, 2022 | Trucking Accidents

The Covid-19 pandemic and supply-chain shortages have shown how crucial the global logistics and national delivery system is (hopefully everyone is stocked back up on toilet paper by now). The United States is in the midst of a shortage of truck drivers, especially good, qualified, and safe ones. In 2019 there was a historic shortage, to the tune of about 80,000 truck drivers. This immense need that manufacturers and sellers have to get drivers on the road to deliver goods is, unfortunately, leading some trucking companies to cut corners and compromise their standards during the hiring process.

When trucking companies are less discerning about who they hire to get behind the wheel of their massive tractor-trailers, it can pose an extraordinary risk to everyone else on the roadways. In July 2020, for example, a truck driver in the Greater Cincinnati area led police on a chase in his tractor-trailer that spanned 3 counties and lasted several hours. During the pursuit, the driver was holding his wife hostage in the truck as he tried to evade law enforcement. He even turned his tractor-trailer into a deadly weapon, purposefully trying to strike multiple officers with his semi. Earlier this month, that driver was sentenced to 7 years in prison after pleading guilty to three separate crimes arising from the incident: Abduction, Attempted Felonious Assault, and Failure to Comply with Orders of a Police Officer.

While this type of incident is, thankfully, an extreme and unusual example of what can go wrong, it’s alarming to wonder how this driver’s significant criminal history didn’t prevent him from getting or keeping a job driving a big rig. The driver had a series of run-ins with the law before this incident that should have been viewed as a red flag by any responsible motor carrier. In 2012, he was sentenced to 5 years in prison on a domestic violence charge after allegedly shooting a woman twice. In 2019, he had an arrest warrant issued for failing to report to his probation officer for over two years.

How was this driver still able to be hired and keep his job as a truck driver with that kind of history? Many companies, especially in the midst of the current driver shortage, do the absolute bare minimum with regard to background checks. They often try to justify their actions by arguing that, so long as a driver had a valid commercial driver’s license, he or she was qualified to drive. Trucking companies desperate for drivers will intentionally look the other way to avoid finding information that could indicate that a driver is potentially unfit. Some companies also find it tough to find and retain good, qualified drivers simply because they aren’t willing to pay decent wages. The upshot is that many people behind the wheel of these trucks probably don’t belong there and are only driving because the companies hiring them were being careless in their hiring and selection process.

Currently, The United States’ shortage on truck drivers is so significant that Federal agencies are actively seeking new solutions and compromises in order to meet the demand. A new bill from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration proposes persons under 21 be allowed to operate tractor-trailers in interstate commerce. But In the age of cell phone addiction and distracted driving, especially amongst teens, these new “solutions” to the semi-truck driver shortage may cause more problems than they solve with regard to safety on the roads.

If someone you love is injured by a tractor-trailer, it is critically important that you hire a law firm that has specialized knowledge about the trucking industry and hiring and training processes amongst trucking companies. Rittgers & Rittgers has the knowledge and experience necessary to handle your truck wreck case. Our truck wreck attorneys achieve real results for their clients that have suffered injury from tractor-trailers and other commercial vehicles.

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