What are the requirements for obtaining a Commercial Driver's License (CDL)? Who's responsible when negligent training leads to a motor vehicle accident? In the United States, truck drivers are required to pass a rigorous series of tests to obtain a CDL issued by the Department of Transportation (DOT). When drivers fail to secure a CDL and the necessary endorsements for the cargo they transport, then they, their employer, and their training institution may be held liable for accidents that result from their negligent training.
There are three types of CDL's issued by the DOT.
- Class A CDL's allow drivers to drive tractor-trailers, truck and trailer combinations, takers, livestock carriers, and flatbed trucks with a gross vehicle weight of 26,000 lbs or greater.
- Class B CDL's allow drivers to operate vehicles that include commercial buses, school buses, delivery trucks, and dump trucks.
- Class C CDL's allow drivers to operate HAZMAT vehicles, passenger vans, and combination vehicles that do not fall under Class A or B classifications.
Most states and employers require commercial truck drivers to successfully complete professional training prior to the issuance of a CDL. In addition to the standard requirements for the CDL, drivers may also be required to seek additional endorsements for hazardous materials, passenger vehicles, school buses, tankers, and double/triple trailers.
CDL and endorsement training covers the various state and federal laws that govern commercial truck driving, vehicle operation and handling, maintenance requirements, etc. These courses may be taught by licensed facilities that meet minimum requirements for curriculum and training. Drivers may also receive training in certified or accredited schools which meet these requirements and are also reviewed and certified by a third party agency such as the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC). Finally, employers may also train their employees via in-house training programs that are designed to update driver's knowledge of changes to the law, vehicles within the fleet, etc.
Instructors, educational institutions, and a commercial truck driver's employer can be held liable for negligent training. Examples include an employer misinforming a driver regarding the safety features or handling characteristics of a particular class of vehicle, or if a truck driving school fails to update their course materials with current regulations and requirements. However, even when an instructor, institution, or employer bears liability for an accident, this does not mean the truck driver is "off the hook" for relying on bad information while operating a commercial motor vehicle. As with all motorists, every driver has a duty of care to other motorists that includes obeying the laws, regulations, and understanding the handling characteristics of their vehicle.
Kansas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma are proportional comparative fault states. This means if a driver is less than 50% at fault for an accident, they are entitled to compensation for the accident. Illinois is a proportional comparative fault state which means that the driver must be less than 51% at fault to pursue compensation. In all four states, liability for an accident and negligent training may be apportioned to the truck driver, their employer, and the institution or instructor which provided the training. For example, the jury could assign 25% fault and liability for the claim to the truck driving school, 10% to the driver, and 20% to their employer. There are many other examples. Missouri is a pure comparative fault state and has better laws.
Brad Pistotnik represents clients in Wichita, Overland Park, Topeka, Lawrence, Garden City, /Dodge City, Liberal and other cities in Kansas, Nebraska, and Illinois that are injured by negligent truck drivers. When improper training leads to a motor vehicle accident, motorists are entitled to seek compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, and the pain and suffering that occur.
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