Only Qualified, Tested Drivers Should Be Getting Behind the Wheel of a Commercial Truck

David W. Hodges
David Hodges is a founding partner of Kennedy Hodges. He focuses his practice on personal injury claims.

Qualifications Button a KeyboardIt is well known that driving a commercial truck is quite different that operating any other type of vehicle. Large trucks respond differently to road and traffic conditions, and accidents involving trucks are accompanied by more dangers. One way a trucking company can work to reduce the risks of serious accidents is to hire only appropriately qualified drivers. When drivers are prepared and have a history of responsible driving, it promotes the safety of everyone who shares the road. Both federal and state governments have set rules about who can operate a commercial vehicle and how to obtain the proper license to help meet this goal.

General Requirements to Obtain a Commercial Driver’s License in Texas

Obviously, every driver needs a valid driver’s license. To operate a commercial vehicle, a driver must obtain a commercial driver’s license, or CDL. Every state has different rules that dictate just how to get a CDL. Recent changes to federal law have impacted the CDL system in Texas, with a few changes taking place in recent months. Now, drivers first must:

  • Present documents proving identity and Texas residency.
  • Present documents proving age. Interstate drivers must be at least 21 years old, and intrastate drivers must be at least 18 years old.
  • Certify they are in good health. In some cases, a certificate signed by a doctor is required.
  • Hold a valid Texas driver’s license, along with registration and insurance on all personal vehicles.
  • Pass a vision test.
  • Pay the associated fees.

Commercial Vehicle Specific Training Is Also Necessary

In addition to these general guidelines, the state of Texas also requires those who wish to be commercial drivers to pass tests specific to large vehicles. The system is much like obtaining a regular driver’s license for the first time. It includes:

  • Commercial Driver’s Education. While a formal commercial driver’s education class is not required, the CDL exams are very technical and specific. Most states and employers encourage drivers to enroll in a class. Some trucking companies offer their own course, or drivers can enroll in any number of qualified courses.
  • Commercial Learner’s Permit. This permit allows drivers’ in training to practice on public roads with a qualified CDL holder in the truck. In Texas, a driver must hold a commercial learner’s permit for 14 days before he is eligible to take the final skills test.
  • Skills Test. The skills test evaluates a driver in three key areas: pre-trip walk around, backing skills maneuvers, and a road test.

Certain Disqualifications Can Prevent a Driver From Obtaining and Keeping a CDL

Even if a person meets all the requirements and pass the exams, there are certain events that can prevent them from obtaining or keeping a Texas CDL. These include:

  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs or refusing to submit to a test.
  • Fleeing the scene of an accident.
  • Committing a felony involving a commercial vehicle.
  • Being convicted of certain moving violations in a personal vehicle.
  • Violating out-of-service orders.
  • Committing serious traffic violations in a commercial vehicle, including excessive speeding and reckless driving.
  • Failing to follow proper railroad crossing guidelines.

When Trucking Companies Fail to Hire and Retain Qualified Drivers

The U.S. is currently facing a shortage in commercial truck drivers. The American Trucking Associations stated a 2014 shortage of 38,000 drivers and predicted the problem would continue to grow. This may lead trucking companies to lower standards or even cut corners when it comes to ensuring that every driver is properly qualified. When unqualified, inexperienced drivers are behind the wheels of large, heaving commercial vehicles, dangerous accidents can occur. Both drivers and trucking companies can be held accountable for operating a commercial vehicle without the proper qualifications. They can be subject to fines and jail time, as well as be put out of service.

If you or someone you love suffered injuries in a truck accident, and you suspect an unqualified driver put you at risk, the experienced attorneys at Kennedy Hodges, LLP, may be able to help. We fight to protect the rights of victims nationwide from our offices in Houston and DC. Call us today at 855-947-0707 to learn more and schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.