Trucking companies used to be able to avoid blame by creating distance between themselves and the driver, the vehicle, and the equipment.
They did this by:
- Leasing (renting) the equipment, tractor, and trailers from the “owner/operator”
- Hiring owner/operators as independent contractors rather than employees
The trucking company would then give the owner/operator a “placard,” including the name of the trucking company and its permit numbers, which the owner/operator would affix to the door of the tractor.
In the event of an accident, the trucking company would argue that:
- Because the driver was not the trucking company’s employee, the trucking company was not liable for driver error.
- Because the trucking company did not own the equipment, it was not responsible for the operation, maintenance, repair, and inspections of the equipment.
Under Current Law Trucking Companies Are Responsible
Under current federal law, a company owning a trucking permit is responsible for all accidents involving a truck that has its placard or name displayed on the vehicle, regardless of what the lease says with the owner/operator or whether the driver is an employee or independent contractor.