Commercial truck drivers must secure a commercial driver’s license (CDL) in order to be hired by a truck carrier and in order to drive a big rig. Getting a CDL involves driver training, a driving test, a strict written exam, and a dedication to following the federal rules established for truck drivers.
You expect that the big rig and tractor trailer drivers next to you has the training they need to stay safe on the road and that someone has checked to make sure that the drivers are qualified to be sharing the road with you. The problem is that may not be the case. According to a 2006 U.S. Department of Transportation report, there are about 15,000 license holders across 27 states (including Florida) whose licenses are “suspect.” Since that report was published, about one third of the suspect license holders gave up their commercial driver’s licenses or had them taken away, but safety experts say that illegal and unearned CDLs are still a problem on Florida and U.S. roads.
How does it happen? In some cases, would-be drivers use fake documents to take driver’s tests. In others, they use unscrupulous companies to fake the written exam – either by having someone else take the exam or by paying for a pass without taking the exam. These are punishable crimes, but in many cases drivers are not caught unless they cause a truck accident.
The problem is that CDL fraud is hard to detect and very dangerous. Drivers who falsify their documents or driver’s tests may not qualify to operate a truck. They may not have the training or expertise to avoid truck collisions in Miami or other cities. If you are in a collision with these truckers, it may be harder to get insurance money for your damages and injuries, since the insurance company will not cover drivers who do not have legal CDLs.
While most truck drivers are on the road legally and are professionals who take safety very responsibly, illegal truck drivers and fake CDL holders are a real concern. These drivers may pose a threat to everyone – including other truck drivers. These drivers will fake CDLs also take away jobs and opportunities from safe drivers who have legitimate qualifications.
Part of the problem with fake CDLs is that they are hard to prove. Fraudulent companies cover their tracks and can often make it appear that a truck driver legitimately took a driver’s test and written test (even if they did not). Even if trucking companies screen employees, they may not be able to get the information they need to verify a suspiciously-obtained CDL. Some trucking companies only do basic screening on drivers, which adds to the problem.
Another issue is that the system for reporting trucking accidents and unsafe drivers is not always efficient. DOT has a database of truck drivers but the database does not contain information about driving offenses. State DMVs do contain this information but the records can contain mistakes and are updated slowly. In cases where accidents and violations occur out of state, especially, truck carriers and potential employers of truck drivers may not learn about any violations easily. A more transparent system and more efficient system for reporting violations – including violations sustained while truckers drive their cars during breaks from work – could help the industry target unsafe drivers. Unfortunately, there are no current plans to create a more transparent country-wide system that would address these issues.
If you have been involved in a trucking accident involving a driver with a fraudulent license, you may face additional insurance problems. Contact Flaxman Law Group at any time to get legal help and advice in this situation. Charles Flaxman, the founder of our law firm, has more than 10 years of insurance industry experience as well as more than 25 years of experience as a trial attorney. He understands insurance negotiation from both sides of the courtroom and can put this knowledge to work on a variety of traffic accident and personal injury cases.