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Are Your Driver Files Putting You At Risk?
Mariah Barr
6 mins read

Over the past decade, so-called “nuclear verdicts” have become a big issue for the trucking industry. According to a study by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), these judgments have risen sharply – increasing by a whopping 967% between 2010 and 2018.  

For million-dollar lawsuits involving a truck crash, it’s pushed the average verdict size to $22.3 million.  

Webinar: The Connection Between Driver File Compliance & Nuclear Verdicts 

Not only are these verdicts putting companies out of business, but they’re causing insurance premiums across the industry to skyrocket. According to the ATRI report on this issue, one motor carrier was forced to close its doors after its single-year insurance rates nearly doubled from $340,000 to $700,000.

And they haven’t been the only casualty of the insurance hike – there have been many other fleets and family-owned businesses that have been forced into closure, as well. 

The Role of Reptile Theory 

One of the reasons these verdicts are thought to be so effective is because of a litigation tactic known as “reptile theory.” It was first used in 2009, and the strategy behind this approach is to play on the jurors’ emotions by prompting feelings of anger and fear – and ultimately encouraging these detrimental nuclear verdicts. 

The plaintiff’s attorney has one job – to win the case. And they’ll do just about anything to get there.  

As a trucking company, there’s nothing you can do to prevent these tactics in court. You can, however, make sure you’re prepared for the chance you’ll have a case on your hands.   

Building a Culture of Safety 

Although not all accidents can be prevented, data from the FMCSA found that only 3 percent of all crashes were the result of environmental factors. A whopping 87 percent of crashes were the result of driver error and 10 percent were due to mechanical issues with the truck. 

In other words? By creating a culture of safety and compliance in your company, you’ll not only make it much less likely that your drivers will be involved in an accident, but you’ll be creating a solid shield of protection to fight back against claims of negligence should you find yourself sitting in a courtroom someday.  

It’s without a doubt, the simplest and least expensive way to protect the future of your company. 

[White Paper] The Legal Implications of Non-Compliant Driver Files

Create & Maintain Compliant Driver Files

According to the ATRI report, in every case where the driver’s history played a role in the accident, the defendant was found guilty of negligence. However, it’s also an area that is completely avoidable – both by having thorough background screening processes in place and by maintaining compliant Driver Qualification Files (DQFs).  

It’s Time to Transition to Digital Driver Files 

Non-compliant driver files are a big industry problem. In fact, they account for many of the top acute and critical FMCSA violations annually.  

The top five driver qualification file violations are as follows: 
  1. Driving a commercial motor vehicle while disqualified 
  2. Using a physically unqualified driver 
  3. Not keeping inquiries into driving records in a driver qualification file 
  4. Failing to maintain a driver file on each driver 
  5. Not keeping a medical certificate in a driver file 

It’s not that these files are necessarily difficult to create when a new driver is hired (though there are often steps missed in the process), but it can be difficult for companies to keep these files updated on an ongoing basis – and the more drivers they hire, the more difficult it gets.  

Ebook: How to Manage Compliant Driver Files 

If you think you might be committing any of these violations or your driver files are hurting more than helping you, don’t worry, there is light at the end of the compliance and litigation tunnel. Luckily, you don’t have to go it alone when it comes to your DQFs and ensuring you’re meeting – or exceeding – DQF regulations and best practices. 

Foley’s Digital DQF Solution 

To comply with the FMCSA’s offsite audit requirement, driver files should be maintained in a secure, digital format.  

Foley offers easy-to-use driver file creation and maintenance in our exclusive platform. We’ll convert your paper files to an electronic format so they can be easily downloaded and presented to a compliance officer (or a judge if you’re ever faced with a lawsuit). All files are securely stored to prevent tampering.  

The system also keeps track of important dates and provides alerts when a CDL or medical card is up for renewal, or a change is detected on the driver’s MVR.  

At Foley, we’ll both evaluate your current safety and compliance procedures and set you up with an automated compliance platform that will help keep your files organized and compliant. Take our free quiz to see if your driver files are where they need to be, or click here to get started today. 

 
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