The Dallas Morning News began a truly frightening three-part series today about road hazards caused by trucking companies that hire inexperienced drivers, and fail to maintain their big rigs. This is a must-read article. Here is a short excerpt:
Trucking companies in Texas often gamble on drivers such as Mr. Rodriguez, a seven-month Dallas Morning News investigation has found. They hire illegal immigrants who struggle to read road signs and communicate in English with police and emergency personnel. They hire felons, drunks and drug addicts. Sometimes, they make only cursory checks of work history and driving records, then put the new hires behind the wheel of rigs with the destructive potential of guided missiles.
When accidents occur, trucking companies defend their drivers and often blame the other vehicles – and in many cases the dead occupants – regardless of the evidence. They typically fight any release of information about their drivers and vehicles, and wage protracted legal battles to avoid blame.
Beyond that, the companies suffer few consequences, in part because the soaring number of trucks on Texas highways are overwhelming regulators and law enforcement officers. Mr. Rodriguez was never ticketed by the Texas Department of Public Safety or charged with a crime. Federal immigration authorities didn’t deport him. State officials didn’t suspend his license.
DPS never took action against TXI for its role in putting Mr. Rodriguez on the road that day and continuing to employ him, even after he admitted under oath that he entered the U.S. illegally, exaggerated his truck-driving experience on his job application and had a fake Social Security number. Mr. Rodriguez continued driving for TXI for at least another six months after he made those disclosures in front of a company lawyer.
DPS did not even subject TXI to a compliance review – a procedure by which trucking companies can be fined or forced out of business for failing to comply with rules and one which regulators say promotes greater road safety.