In what could be the largest civil penalty in an accident involving a truck in history, a Texas jury has awarded $101 million to a man who crashed with a tractor-trailer in 2013. The defendant in the case was FTS International, an oil company with a trucking fleet that hauls sand and other material used in fracking.
On Sept. 13, 2013, Joshua Patterson was driving his Ford F-150 southbound on US Highway 259, returning home from church. FTS International driver Bill Acker was driving behind Patterson in a Mack tractor-trailer. According to the indictment, Acker “failed to control the speed” of his rig and rear-ended Patterson’s F-150. A post-accident drug screen revealed that Acker had marijuana and methamphetamine in his system.
Patterson’s attorneys alleged that FTS never should have “recklessly employed” Acker in the first place. Company policy dictated that if a driver had three or more violations in 36 months prior to the date of hire, they would not be employed.
Attorneys for FTS contended that Acker lied about his driving record by omitting two of the three moving violations on his application. However, it was determined that because FTS had access to his Motor Vehicle Report (MVR), the company should have known about the inaccurate claims in Acker’s application.
FTS had strict policies, and they didn’t pay attention to any of them.
– John Hull, attorney for victim
Acker was on probation with FTS at the time of the crash for past driving performance issues with the company, and his driving privileges had been suspended at least twice previously. Additionally, there was testimony that Acker had signed documents attesting to having gone through various safety training that were not fully truthful.
The actions of FTS in its training and onboarding of Acker were the focus of the testimony during the trial.
This $101 million award eclipses the $90 million levied against Werner Enterprises earlier this year.
FTS failed at several steps along the way. Community Insurance Group specializes in trucking, so we understand that hiring and keeping good drivers is the #1 concern in the trucking industry.
To help avoid the expense of hiring an unqualified candidate, defending a discrimination claim, or worse (like a $101 million lawsuit) – employers should have a controlled hiring process that is compliant with local, state, and federal law.
The process should consist of a needs assessment, recruiting, selecting, and finally, hiring.
Successfully integrating new hires into your organization means they are 58% more likely to remain after three years. An effective onboarding program provides employers with a solid starting point during which they can communicate their values and company culture to an employee.
The quality of your drivers affects the entire fleet operation, the safety of others on the road, and your company’s reputation. It is imperative that a trucking company establishes a driver selection program to hire the best, most qualified drivers.
All company drivers should be part of an ongoing safety training program. When asked about the hallmarks of a “good” trucking company, drivers showed a surprisingly high level of consistency in their responses:
- Quality and quantity of safety and training programs
- Compliance with regulations
- Maintenance of clean facilities and equipment
- Recognition of safe driving and good driving records
Contact us today to learn how our resources can help your company stay compliant while being able to attract and retain the best talent.