With nearly 2,000,000 tractor trailers on the road in the U.S. hauling roughly 71% of total freight tonnage in the country, according to the American Trucking Association, poor maintenance of trucks and their equipment cannot be overlooked. Faulty brakes, windshield wipers, tires, and distracted drivers can all lead to serious accidents.
Now imagine one of these unqualified individuals handling your freight and the risks that can occur. These include theft and contamination concerns associated with the mishandling of your food and pharmaceutical products, hazmat spills that can lead to hefty fines and environmental hazards, and crashes that may result in damages, injuries, or even deaths. If only you could have done something to prevent this from happening…well maybe you could have.
More and more shippers are choosing to vet out their carriers using the CSA system in fear of being wrapped up in a vicarious liability lawsuit, which can lead to multi-million dollar claims.
According to vicarious liability, “Where a shipper acts as principal, and a carrier or broker acts as agent of the shipper, liability for the conduct of the carrier or broker may be imputed to the shipper,” since the shipper had “the right to control the conduct” of the carrier or broker. (1)
Up until 2004, the carrier, and only the carrier, was held responsible for “any and all property damage or bodily injury it caused” while freight was in its possession. (1) In 2004, however, this changed in a court case known as Schramm v. Foster, in which a shipper hired a 3pl to transport their freight. The carrier that was hired to do so by the 3pl had gotten into an accident, seriously injuring two people. Instead of strictly the carrier being held accountable for the accident, the 3pl was found liable as well since, according to the ruling, the 3pl was responsible for vetting out a driver via the FMCSA’s Safestat database.
As QualifiedCarriers.com informs, “a carrier’s liability insurance will exclude indemnity for independent claims against the shipper,” for example, negligent hiring, so you, the shipper, can be sued as well for your carrier’s actions.
In further detail, shippers are now liable in cases where “the plaintiff can show (1) the carrier caused injury to the plaintiff’s property or person through negligence, recklessness or intentional misconduct and (2) the shipper did not exercise reasonable care or perform proper due diligence when it screened, vetted, and selected the carrier to move the shipper’s freight.” (1)
Motor Carrier Safety Selection Standard Act
According to the TIA’s Vice President of Government Affairs, Chris Burroughs, 85% of motor carriers have an unrated safety rating, and while that does not always mean that the carrier is “unsafe,” it creates a huge safety gap in the system, leading shippers and 3PLs to “guess” whether or not a carrier is safe. Additionally, there “currently is no standard or requirement for entities to check prior to selecting a motor carrier,” increasing safety risks. (2) But all that can soon change.
Last week, Reps. Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, and Henry Cuellar, D-Texas introduced the Motor Carrier Safety Selection Standard Act, which would require shippers, brokers and other entities “that are selecting motor carriers to check certain data points prior to tendering a load,” stated Burroughs. (3) According to the TIA, these data points include:
*That the carrier is registered with the FMCSA.
*Has the minimum insurance requirement.
*Maintains zero out-of-services orders.
Along with the above, the FMCSA would need to “issue a new motor carrier safety fitness determination rulemaking similar to what was included in the INVEST Act.” (4)
Choosing the Right Carrier
As a shipper or 3PL, it is important to practice due diligence and vet the carriers hauling you and your customers’ freight. Road Scholar Transport maintains positive CSA scores, hiring only the most qualified drivers, running well-maintained equipment that is pre- and post-trip inspected and equipped with anti-rollover and anti-crash technology. In fact, we have NEVER been cited for a piece of faulty equipment involved in an accident.
Visit RoadScholar.com today to get your freight onboard a safe carrier and if you’re a qualified driver, we want to hear from you! Visit our careers page to learn more about starting a driving career with Road Scholar today.