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Colorado Case Study: The Crucial Role of Driver Hiring and Training in Commercial Fleet Operations

White Ford van parked in front of a brick wall.In the fast-paced world of commercial fleet operations, where every mile matters and safety is paramount, the significance of a robust driver hiring and training standard cannot be overstated. Our transportation safety expert witness, James Lewis, was recently retained by the plaintiffs in a case out of Colorado where a solar energy company had a driver in a commercial van who collided with a person stopped at a traffic light. This case highlighted a significant departure from accepted industry standards which ultimately played a role in this accident.

Our expert determined several things during his investigation.

  • The company performed no real vetting of the driver; they did not run a background check or review his driving record prior to hiring him.
  • The commercial van driver had an egregious driving record and should not have been allowed to operate a company vehicle.
  • The company had no written safety policy and performed no initial or recurring driver safety training for this driver or any other.
  • The commercial van driver did not account for snowy and icy road conditions while driving.

Hiring Issues

The Colorado company allowed their insurance company to be the ultimate decision-maker when hiring drivers for their commercial vehicles. This proved to be a significant misstep since the insurance company based its decision on a limited window: the previous three years of the driver’s records. Since this shortened period of the driver's traffic record wasn't quite as bad as it had been in the preceding years, they approved. In reviewing the driver's record, James found his history sufficiently alarming that it should have disqualified him from operating a commercial or fleet vehicle at any company. Adherence to industry standards which dictate that the entirety of the driver’s history be investigated and vetted would have raised red flags.

The driver's history showed that his license had been suspended by the State of Colorado for "excess points." This means that he had accumulated enough violations in his record to reach the maximum number of penalty points allowed within a specific timeframe, thereby forfeiting his license.

He was also cited for driving an unsafe vehicle, passing when prohibited, speeding, and a defective equipment issue. On another occasion, he was cited for careless driving, failing to use turn signals, and again for driving an unsafe vehicle. Earlier in his record, he was cited for failing to drive in a single lane, speeding 10-19 miles per hour over the limit, again for speeding 10-19 miles over the limit, and failing to provide insurance on his vehicle.

Shockingly, the driver formed this troubling driving history in only five years of driving.

Our expert noted from the overall review that the driver kept a steady accumulation of license penalty points. Despite these negative entries and overwhelming evidence of habitual-level traffic offenses, he was hired by the company to operate one of their larger company vehicles.

Inadequate Training

In addition to their detrimental hiring decision, the company failed to train and supervise its driver and failed to meet the national standards found in ANSI Z15 (American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) published American National Standards Institute—Safe Practices for Motor Vehicle Operations). These standards apply to a company with any size fleet of vehicles.

Our expert opined that both the driver and the company had evaded and failed to provide, to an overtly egregious level, the standard of care expected by the motoring public from a fleet-operating company. The actions of the driver, specifically, showed an extreme disregard for safety, demonstrated disastrously dangerous levels of risk, and more likely than not increased the severity of the crash and resulting injuries and damage.

The case was settled in favor of the plaintiff.

Adherence to industry standards and regulations of driver qualifications and training mitigates risks and improves the safety of drivers and the public. A commitment to these standards may also serve as a vital defense against liability and legal challenges.

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