The trucking industry is heavily regulated. Unfortunately, those very regulations, which exist to insure the safety of the motoring public (that’s you, me and everyone else on the road), are frequently ignored by trucking companies, large and small, often with devastating results. When a person is injured in a crash with a tractor trailer, the qualifications of the driver to operate the vehicle, and the steps taken by the motor carrier to qualify him/her, should be a primary area of inquiry by any trucking attorney. And the best evidence of this is frequently found in the driver qualification file.
Motor Carriers are obligated to explore the background and training of any person hired to operate their trucks. And, they are required to maintain a record of the results for duration of the driver’s tenure of employment. This is known in the industry as a “driver qualification file”. Given that these documents are required by law, and are spelled out in great detail by the regulations the trucking industry is acutely familiar with, one would presume that every company would have a complete file for each driver, right? Unfortunately, in my experience, this rarely proves true. I am frequently astonished by the important documentation which is missing from driver’s files, and this often serves as a marker for the care and attention a trucking company takes toward cultivating competent drivers.
The following documents should exist in every driver’s qualification file:
- Driver-specific application for employment (§391.21);
- An original motor vehicle record requested within 30 days of hire (§391.23);
- Documentation proving the driver’s qualifications to operate [this may be in the form of a road test (company road, (§391.31(g)), or a road test certificate conducted by another motor carrier within the past 3 years (§391.33(a)(2)), or a photocopy of a CDL accepted in lieu of road test (unless the person is hired to operate doubles, triples, or tankers)]
- Results of the background investigation on the driver (§391.23 & §391.53 ) including:
- For drivers hired before October 30, 2004: Employment verifications sent to all former employers for the 3 years prior to the application date or a record of a good faith effort;
- For drivers hired on or after October 30, 2004: Safety Performance History data from all former DOT-regulated employers for the 3 year period preceding the application or a record of a good faith effort.
- If applicable, copies of any driver rebuttals to the Safety Performance History data and responses to the rebuttals from the former DOT-regulated employers.
- The driver’s medical certificate (§391.43(g) (or equivalent)
- A waiver of a physical disqualification, if applicable (§391.49(j)
- The driver’s annual motor vehicle record (§391.25);
- A record of the driver’s annual review of his/her driving record (§391.25);
- A list of the driver’s moving violations on an annual basis (§391.27).
- Combination vehicle training certificate, if applicable (§380.401);
- Entry-level driver training certificate, if applicable (§380.509(b)).
In certain situations, additional or differing documentation may be required and/or may exist.