Truck Driver Personnel File

October 2, 2019

Every interstate motor carrier must comply with federal regulations before qualifying and hiring a commercial truck driver. Georgia, like most states, has adopted the federal regulations as rules that trucking companies must follow even if those companies are simply intrastate – i.e., they will not operate in any state but Georgia. Aside from the government mandated qualification file, company’s often monitor a driver’s record with a Driver Personnel File.

Truck Driver Qualification Process

The driver qualification process is crucial because, in theory, it ensures motor carriers only hire reasonably safe truck drivers. If a trucking company doesn’t follow the law when hiring a truck driver, it puts the public at risk.

Driver Personnel File vs Driver Qualification File

The driver personnel file is different from the driver qualification file. Most large trucking companies maintain a personnel file for each driver in addition to the qualification file.

Driver Personnel File

The personnel file usually contains driver incident reports, reprimands, training materials, handbooks, performance reviews, recommendations for promotions, etc. The personnel file is almost as important as the qualification file during a personal injury case.

Driver Qualification File

There are two components to the driver qualification file – the initial requirements and the ongoing requirements. The federal regulation that governs driver qualification files is 49 CFR 391.1 et seq. The federal statute requires an employer to complete the following initial steps before hiring a driver:

  1. obtain the driver’s application for employment [49 CFR 391.21]
  2. obtain the driver’s motor vehicle report (MVR) from each state where the driver held a commercial driver’s license that will show any prior citations or other legal violations during the prior three years [49 CFR 392.23(a)(1) and (b)]
  3. require the driver to complete a road test [49 CFR 391.31(e)]
  4. during the first 30 days of employment, request verification of employment and a certification of violations from the driver’s prior employers [49 CFR 391.23(a)(1) and (b)]
  5. ensure the driver passes a drug and alcohol screening [49 CFR 40.25(i); 49 CFR 382.301]

After hiring a driver, the federal regulations require a motor carrier to requalify the driver every year by obtaining:

  1. the driver’s updated MVR [49 CFR 391.25(c)(2)]
  2. the driver’s certification listing any driving incidents that occurred over the prior year [49 CFR 391.27]
  3. the driver’s updated medical certificate [49 CFR 391.43]

These driver qualification file rules are just a minimum standard, a base line. Many trucking companies may do more than simply comply with the law.

Regardless, if a trucking company fails to comply with these rules, and the driver does have a history of unsafe driving practices, then it opens that company up to a claim for negligent hiring – i.e., failing to follow the law to make it as likely as possible the company hires a safe driver.

How Attorney’s use a Driver Personnel File

The personnel file, while not mandatory, is a gold mine for personal injury attorneys. Generally speaking, a driver’s MVR – which appears in the qualification file – only shows moving violations (speeding, red light violations, etc.), collisions, and overweight citations that occur on public roadways.

The personnel file often contains a list of other violations, including failure to comply with company rules, single-vehicle collisions, and use of cell phone while driving, just to name a few.

In a personal injury case, the information from both files can be used to show a trucking company improperly hired the driver, improperly continued to employ the driver after multiple minor and major violations, or both.

HPS Law attorneys always get both the qualification file and the personnel file during a truck accident personal injury lawsuit, not only from the trucking company our client sues, but also from the truck driver’s prior employers. We may have as many as 5-10 qualification files and personnel files to help build our client’s case.

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