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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Don't want to know...

We’ve spoken to several business owners about checking their employee’s backgrounds and driving records. What is most troubling is that many employers want to keep on their blinders. They don’t want to know about their employee’s past. Which might be OK for social issues or even criminal issues. Because the employee’s past does not directly affect their job performance or skills. Many employers hire those who have been released from prison. Which is a good thing. Most State correctional facilities have step down programs and teach vocations, employable skills, and most inmates finish or further their educations.

What is troubling is the failure of employers who employ drivers as their primary workforce to check driving records. Most drivers are entrusted with large capacity passenger or heavy cargo vehicles. The employer is more concerned with the skill the employee possesses than the performance of that skill.  Many say that if they checked into their drivers past they would not have any drivers. Another one is, “We only hire people we know”. Well, how well do you know someone? If your “friend” is forty and you’ve known them for five, or even ten years, that seems like an eternity. However, they’ve had twenty-two years of adulthood before you ever met them.

So maybe the reasoning is the liability the employer would assume if they hired a driver with a questionable record. Would that liability be lessened if the driver was employed without a check and was at fault while driving the company vehicle?
Liability may exist in either scenario and would depend on the industry standard. Some businesses regularly check their employees for certain positions while others do not. Does a business have benchmarks for what is considered dangerous? Just because the employee has driving infractions this does not open the business to liability.  Non-moving traffic violations can be far less of an issue than moving violations. Even moving violations have degrees of severity, such as “failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident” as opposed to “ negligent driving”.

For those who occupation is ”driver”, isn’t their record a performance review of their skills? If you hired a carpenter and were able to access a database that listed carpentry infractions wouldn’t you like to have this information? Record checks can verify resumes or skill levels. This was a simplistic comparison, but if you were concerned only with your employee’s skills, wouldn’t you want to know everything? Why is driving any different?
Here are a few instances of drivers involved in accidents in which it was later discovered that they had previous traffic violations.
  •   July 2013-Dayton, OH-Ice Cream truck driver possesses a suspended license and has 27 arrests for a variety of offenses
  • February 2012-Chesterfiled, NJ-Driver of school bus involved in fatal accident had undisclosed medical condition that prohibited from driving a bus
  • March 2011, New York-Driver of bus in accident that killed fifteen had previous driving violations.

We have discussed this topic with attorneys who have said that they have had different experiences. Most of their clients and companies they know do check their driver’s records.  Regarding liability, it would be more prudent to check your drivers than to not. Just because someone has infractions on their driving record, that alone does not make them a poor candidate to hire. If one of your drivers has an accident and you find yourself in court, it is easier to defend your policy of hiring a driver with violations than not checking at all. 

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