So you want to hire a driver with less than two years CDL experience.  Quite often, companies are motivated to put a driver in a seat to get the truck moving.

This is something clients often ask us about, and may become more prevalent if federal law is changed to allow under-21 CDL holders to operate trucks on an interstate basis.

We get it – with the shortage of drivers, many companies are okay with (or becoming okay with) hiring drivers with little to no experience. The hope for the trucking company is that the new hire will work out, become a long term employee, cause little to no damage to their equipment and fill a seat.

On the surface, this seems to make sense, but trucking companies hiring inexperienced drivers may be opening themselves up to more risk than it's worth.  When hiring someone this green, it is critical to consider the cost of hiring, training, and retaining this driver along with the possible negligent hiring suits you could be opening the door to should the driver be involved in a serious accident. 

What the Plantiff’s Attorney Would Love to See

Plaintiff’s attorneys know as much (if not sometimes more) than the average trucking company about proper hiring for drivers.

In cases where a plaintiff attorney can prove to a jury that the trucking company didn’t hire drivers of acceptable competency, or that the federally mandated paperwork is incomplete, a suit for negligent hiring may result.

In some cases, this results in punitive damages which may or may not be covered by an insurance company.  In some states, insurance companies are prohibited from paying punitive damages.

This means that the trucking company is responsible for theses damages.  Proceed with caution -- the hiring of drivers who are unqualified due to inexperience, tickets, or accidents could jeopardize the future of your trucking company.

Qualities to Look for in a Driver with Less Experience

Still considering hiring a driver with less than two years CDL experience?  Here are some key items to look for when considering hiring that driver:

  • Do they have a good employment history - possibly a farmer, a military veteran, or a mechanic?
  • Does this driver have a clean MVR?
  • Has the driver graduated from a professional truck driving school?
  • Does the driver meet the FMCSA regulatory guidelines?
  • Do you have an ongoing driver training program in place with an acceptable driver trainer?
  • What is the radius of operation this driver will be traveling?  Will the driver be going into any busy cities?
  • Do you have a long term history with your current insurance carrier, a good loss ratio, and a current driver list with experienced and acceptable drivers?

When in doubt, talk to your risk advisor for help making a determination. It’s far better to be cautious on the front end than to have to rescind an offer to a candidate or open your company up to risk down the road.

Whatever You Decide, Set Consistent Policies for Hiring Drivers and Stick to Them

Establish consistent hiring policies that can be applied across the board. This is one of the best things you can do to protect your business from a negligent hiring suit – as long as you actually adhere to the policy.

Policies should name specific (not subjective) disqualifiers, and they should never fluctuate with the supply of applicants. Make these public and share them with all employees and applicants. In addition to providing a basis for your defense in a lawsuit, putting these policies out in the open helps you hold recruiters and hiring managers accountable for the quality of people they're bringing on.

Finding good, qualified, safe truck drivers is a wicked problem that isn’t going away any time soon. Hiring, training and retaining the best qualified drivers is what’s best for your company.

Denise Banks is the relationship manager at HNI. HNI is a non-traditional insurance and business advisory firm.This article originally appeared on the HNI blog. Used with permission.