When you hire trucking companies to transport goods for your business, they are liable for their own drivers’ health and safety. But if you are planning to hire drivers of your own, the first thing you must do is learn about the responsibilities and obligations that you have to uphold to ensure the health and safety of your road transport workers.
Having your own transport vehicles and hiring your own drivers is a great way to cut costs for your business. If you are planning to pursue this type of investment, here’s what you need to know about your legal rights, responsibilities, and obligations:
Liability in accidents
When a driver gets into an accident using their company’s vehicle, the employer is usually the one held responsible for the damages even if, technically, the driver is the one at fault. This is called indirect liability. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. The employer might not be held liable if:
- The accident occurs outside of work hours and the driver is not acting upon his work responsibilities
- The truck driver is working as an independent contractor
- The driver caused the accident deliberately
There are cases, however, when the employer is held directly reliable for the accident. For example, you will be directly liable if you:
- Neglect to properly maintain your vehicle and such neglect has caused or played a significant part in causing the accident
- Force your drivers to work past their maximum hour limits
- Hire drivers that are not qualified for the job (e.g. drivers that didn’t pass the medical exam or don’t have a professional driving license)
To find out more about this subject, contact a trucking attorney in your area today.
The employer must uphold their drivers’ rights to ensure not only the safety of the drivers themselves but other motorists and pedestrians as well. Check with your local laws and regulations to see the guidelines set in terms of driver’s rights. In general, these rights include:
- The ability to work in a safe environment. Firstly, your warehouse needs to be compliant with OSHA standards. Secondly and most importantly, your transport vehicles need to be well-maintained and safe to drive. If your vehicles or warehouse don’t meet safety regulations, your employees are entitled to file a complaint to OSHA.
- Adequate rest breaks and maximum work hours. A truck driver can be on duty for 14 hours maximum per day, with 11 hours maximum for driving. Some states have different requirements for rest breaks, so be sure to check with your local laws to find out how long can a truck driver work until they have to take a rest break.
- Proper wages and separate pay for waiting and rest breaks. According to the Fair Labor Standards act, drivers should receive the minimum wage and pay for the hours they spend on standby while waiting for their truck to be loaded. Moreover, they should receive separate pay for rest breaks, even if they are considered as off-duty during these times.
Employer’s obligations and responsibilities
If you plan to have your own fleet or even just one transport vehicle for your company, here are the things that you are responsible for:
- Proper maintenance of vehicles. Vehicles should be inspected and maintained regularly to keep drivers, motorists, pedestrians, and cargo safe.
- Ensuring appropriate load mass. You must follow the rules on maximum load masses and dimensions. Failure to do so can result in an accident and hefty fines.
- Proper fatigue management. Tired drivers are more likely to cause an accident than well-rested ones. As an employer, you must ensure that your drivers’ work demands don’t hinder them from getting adequate amounts of rest both on and off duty.
- Employee education. You must educate your hires about company policies, procedures, and proper safety measures on the road.
- Minimizing hazards. If your company transports hazardous goods, they must be properly secured upon loading.
- Following pay deduction laws. Pay deduction rules vary from state to state. Some states disallow pay deductions for any reason, while some states allow deductions in specific cases only. Check with your local office to find out more about if and when you can deduct drivers’ pay.
- Hiring the right people. When choosing drivers for your company, you must ensure that they are fully qualified to drive the type of vehicle that you have.
Having your own transport vehicle for your business is one of the best opportunities for growth. There are, however, many implications that come with it. Nevertheless, ensuring that you comply with drivers’ rights laws and treat your workers fairly is the best place to start.