The Annual Review: Overview
Ensuring its CMV drivers are fit for the road is not a “one and done” proposition for motor carriers. Rather, the regulations require them to monitor their drivers annually. The failure to do so may allow a driver who is accumulating tickets, accidents, or both, to slip through the cracks. The regulatory requirement of an (at least) annual review is a post-hiring safety checkpoint that is all too frequently ignored by motor carriers. As a result, it is also a frequent basis upon which counsel can demonstrate that the motor carrier itself was negligent, separate and apart from its vicarious liability for the driver who caused a collision.
Many motor carriers’ internal policies, embodied in driver handbooks, require that a driver be disqualified when a set number of accidents, tickets, or a combination of both, have occurred. These policies are understandably stringent given the degree of danger involved in the operation of a CMV, i.e., dismissal for anything over two moving vehicle citation convictions in a year. The motor carrier will find itself in a grim situation if its safety director is forced to admit in his deposition that a driver should or would have been disqualified at an annual review that never actually took place.
It is also not uncommon for a motor carrier to dutifully complete a review that should have resulted in the disqualification of a driver based on the company’s own policies, but nevertheless, the motor carrier failed to follow through. In that case, employees of the motor carrier do not understand company policy at best, or at worst, simply ignore their role in the safety process. It is often stunning to compare the necessary establishment and good intentions of safety policies to the company’s level of ignorance and lack of application of them in the field.
Components of the Annual Review
Under “Annual inquiry and review of driving record,” a motor carrier must:
1. Make an inquiry to obtain the motor vehicle record (“MVR”) of each driver it employs at least once every 12 months from the appropriate agency of every State where the driver held a commercial driver’s license or permit during that time period;
2. Review the driver’s MVR to determine whether the driver “meets minimum requirements for safe driving or is disqualified” from driving a CMV under the regulations;
3. “[C]onsider any evidence” when completing the review that the driver violated “any applicable” FMCSRs “in this subchapter or Hazardous Material Regulations;”
4. Along with considering the driver’s accident record and “any evidence that the driver has violated laws governing the operation of motor vehicles,” the motor carrier must give “great weight” to violations, such as:
b. reckless driving
d. other violations “that indicate the driver exhibited a disregard for the safety of the public;”
5. Place a copy of the MVR obtained in connection with the required annual review in the driver’s qualification file, as well as a note with the name of the person who completed the review and the date of the review itself.