In order to avoid claims for negligent hiring, negligent retention, negligent supervision, and negligent entrustment, Minnesota motor carriers should take proactive steps to ensure the hiring and retention of qualified drivers. This starts with ensuring that all commercial drivers comply with U.S. Department of Transportation (“DOT”) driver’s qualification rules promulgated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (“FMCSA”).
DOT Driver Qualification Rules
Mandatory driver’s qualifications require the drivers of either class of commercial motor vehicle (“CMV”) as discussed further below to:
- Be at least 21 years old;
- Read and speak English;
- Safely operate a vehicle;
- Be physically qualified;
- Have a current and valid commercial motor vehicle’s operator license issued by only one State or jurisdiction. If applying to operate a CMV as defined by 49 C.FR. § 383.5, the driver must have a valid CDL.
- Furnish a violation certificate;
- Not be disqualified; and
- Have completed a driver’s road test and have been issued a certificate, or have an operator’s license or certificate of road test that the motor carrier accepts as an equivalent to a road test pursuant to 49 C.F.R. § 391.33.
Classes of Commercial Motor Vehicles
The first class of commercial motor vehicles subject to the DOT driver’s qualifications rules is defined by 49 C.F.R. § 390.5 and means any self-propelled or towed motor vehicle used on a highway in interstate commerce to transport passengers or property when the vehicle has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating, or gross vehicle weight or gross combination weight in excess of 10,000 lbs., or is designed or used to transport more than 8 passengers (including the driver) for compensation, or is designed or used to transport more than 15 passengers (including the driver) and is not used to transport passengers for compensation, or is used in transporting hazardous materials in a quantity requiring placarding under the FMCSA regulations. 49 C.F.R. § 390.5.
The second class of commercial motor vehicles subject to the DOT driver’s qualifications rules is defined by 49 C.F.R. § 383.5 and means any motor vehicle or combination of motor vehicles used in commerce to transport passengers or property if the motor vehicle as a gross combination weight rating or gross combination weight in excess of 26,000 lbs., inclusive of towed units with a gross vehicle weight rating or gross vehicle weight in excess of 10,000 lbs., or has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross vehicle weight in excess of 26,000 lbs., or is designed to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver), or is any size and is used to transport hazardous materials requiring placarding under the FMCSA regulations. 49 C.F.R. § 383.5.
Avoiding Liability for Age Discrimination
While motor carriers are legally required to ensure drivers of CMVs are at least 21 years old, motor carriers should not make a habit out of asking applicants (other than those applying to operate a CMV) about age. Doing so is prohibited under Minnesota law (Minn. Stat. § 363A.08, subd. 4(a)) and is discouraged under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (29 C.F.R. § 1625.5).
Grounds for Disqualification
As noted above, motor carriers may not hire a driver who has been disqualified. A driver may be disqualified for any of the following: certain criminal offenses such as driving under the influence of alcohol or leaving the scene of an accident while driving a CMV; texting while driving a CMV; using a hand-held mobile device while driving a CMV; violating an out-of-service order; or losing driving privileges. 49 C.F.R. § 391.15.
Equivalents to Road Test
The following are permissible equivalents to a road test: (1) a valid CDL; or (2) a copy of a valid certificate of a driver’s road test issued pursuant to 49 C.F.R. § 391.31 within the preceding 3 years. 49 C.F.R. § 391.33(a).
Motor carriers run the risk of liability when hiring unqualified drivers. As a starting point, all companies that hire commercial drivers must ensure that each driver satisfies DOT drivers’ qualifications rules. If your company needs help screening DOT commercial drivers, contact one of the transportation law attorneys of Trepanier MacGillis Battina P.A.
About the Author:
Minnesota transportation lawyer Bryan R. Battina advises clients, drafts contracts, and litigates disputes in the transportation industry for motor carriers and household goods moving companies. Bryan may be reached at 612.455.0505 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Trepanier MacGillis Battina P.A. is a Minnesota transportation law firm located in Minneapolis, Minnesota.