Driving a truck weighing as much as 80,000 pounds is a huge responsibility and requires a trucker to have a higher level of knowledge, experience, skills, and abilities than drivers of passenger vehicles. Not just anyone can get behind the wheel of a truck. A trucker is required to have special training and obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL) under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations and the state law where the trucker lives. The trucking company hiring drivers has a responsibility to provide proper training, be certain applicants have a valid commercial driver’s license, and ensure they are qualified to drive a truck.
With the shortage of truck drivers and the need to get goods transported quickly, trucking companies and truckers often cut corners on training, and some truck drivers are driving trucks without the proper commercial driver’s license for the specific truck they are driving or lack the experience driving such a massive vehicle that they need. Drivers of other vehicles and their passengers are sadly the victims of horrific accidents caused by the truck driver’s lack of training and experience.
What Is Required to Obtain a CDL?
Commercial driver’s licenses are often obtained through trucking schools, CDL-specific training, or informal training in some cases, and an applicant must pass a written test and driving test, both of which have multiple components. Before a trucker can obtain his CDL, he must have a commercial driver’s permit for at least 14 days that allows him to drive on public roads with another trucker who has a CDL. To obtain a permit, the driver must do the following:
- Pass the knowledge portion of the skills test
- Have his driving record checked for the last 10 years
- Provide proof that he is medically qualified to drive a truck
- Comply with any other state requirements
Once the 14-day permit period has expired, the applicant must pass all three parts of the Skills Test, the Vehicle Inspection Test, the Basic Controls Test, and the Road Test to obtain his CDL.
Licenses are divided into classes known as A, B, and C, and determine what type of truck a trucker can drive. For example, a Class A license allows a trucker to drive a truck with a combined weight of 26,001 pounds, with the trailer weighing 10,000 pounds. A trucker with a Class B license can only drive a single vehicle weighing no more than 26,001 pounds, while a trucker with a Class C license can drive a vehicle that does not meet the definition of a Class A or Class B vehicle but is designed to transport 16 or more passengers or certain hazardous materials. For more information, visit the FMSCA website.
In addition, truckers need certain endorsements on their CDL to drive specific vehicles, such as double/triple trailers, a tank vehicle, hazardous materials, and a school bus. They could also have restrictions on their licenses that limit what they can drive. Examples include:
- Failing the air brakes knowledge test
- Not taking the driving test in a manual transmission truck
- Taking the test with hydraulic brakes instead of air brakes
How Lack of Training Causes Accidents
Having a commercial driving permit for 14 days before getting a CDL does not adequately prepare new and inexperienced drivers for all the challenges they face on the road and to drive trucks with sophisticated manual transmission and braking systems or more technically advanced automatic transmission systems. Trucking companies need to ensure their drivers are sufficiently trained in how to operate their trucks and to perform necessary inspections before their trips. Truckers who do not have sufficient training or experience can cause accidents in a number of ways, including:
- Driving trucks they are not licensed—or qualified—to drive or doing so when endorsements or restrictions do not allow this
- Not having the experience to drive in difficult conditions, such as snow, ice, rain, and fog
- Not understanding the dangers of speeding or having the ability to handle the truck at fast speeds
- Not knowing how to properly slow down or to stop quickly in an emergency situation
- Engaging in distracted driving, such as talking on a cellphone or texting, eating and drinking, or fiddling with the GPS
- Driving the vehicle when drowsy or violating the federal regulations on how long a trucker can drive without a break
- Failing to properly secure the load
- Not understanding the importance of pre-trip inspections and failing to properly conduct an inspection, missing major mechanical safety problems, such as with the brakes or tires
Victims of truck accidents caused by poorly trained and inexperienced truck drivers can suffer life-altering injuries like burns, amputations, paralysis, spinal cord and back injuries, traumatic brain injury, or death. If you or a family member was injured in a crash caused by a trucker, you need an experienced truck accident attorney who understands the federal and state requirements for obtaining a CDL and the safety requirements truck companies and their drivers must follow. Start an online chat or call our firm at 706-863-6600 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.