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U.S. Court of Appeals: Look at safety violations before hiring truck drivers

As anyone who has been on a highway already knows, large commercial vehicles pose a significant danger to other motorists. When carrying full cargo in an 18-wheeler, safe driving should be the top priority. Unfortunately, because transportation companies have tight schedules and cost concerns, safety precautions can be left behind when the driver hits the road.

But regulations and laws exist to promote safe driving and hiring practices. For example, if a transportation company hires a driver who is not properly licensed or otherwise clearly a danger to others, that company may be responsible for any injuries that driver causes.

Court ruling: Accessing drivers' safety records is not a violation of privacy rights

One method transportation companies use to check an applicant's qualifications is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's screening program. This program, initiated by Congress in 2005, requires the FMCSA provide trucking companies with access to its Motor Carrier Management Information System, which shows the driving record and violations of truck drivers. Under the law, a carrier can pay a $10 fee and receive the past five years of the applicant's crash data, three years of inspections and safety violations.

However, six drivers recently sued, declaring the program to be a violation of privacy and a bar to allowing truck drivers with minor violations to find employment. In late October, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a dismissal of the case. The judges' wrote that minor violations such as speeding can help transportation companies, and the FMCSA, "to promote highway safety."

Truck driving is a skill

Self-driving trucks may be coming in the not-too-distant future, but until then driving a tractor-trailor is a skill that requires continued training, practice and experience. Hiring a driver who has proven to be a danger to others can lead to serious injury and death for innocent people out on the road.

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