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Commercial Drivers and Vocational Trucks

Extra Training Required for Specialized Vehicles

When we think about trucks and other commercial vehicles, there are a few generalized examples that usually come to mind — the tractor-trailer rig for long-haul freight and buses for short and long-distance passenger travel are a couple that come to mind. Training that commercial drivers are required to receive in order to initially qualify for a commercial driver’s license will generally focus on these “general purpose” type vehicles, which have many, many controls and features in common with one another, along with the basic “rules of the road” and procedures for commercial driving in general. Truck driver schools that provide this “basic training” typically offer little or no education — especially not hands-on practice — with what are known as “vocational trucks.” These are purpose-built vehicles designed to carry out very specific tasks. They tend to be much, much different from both the general purpose commercial vehicles and from one another. As a result, they require specialized training and experience to be safely operated. When an accident resulting in injuries occurs during the operation of a vocational truck, an experienced personal injury attorney will know to focus the additional investigation on determining whether the truck driver had the required education and practice time behind the wheel to be operating that vehicle.

What Are Vocational Trucks and How Are They Different?

If we look at a tractor-trailer rig driving down the highway, we’re seeing a tractor that the driver may have been driving constantly for years, or which is virtually identical (in controls and construction) with tractors driven previously. Behind that tractor, the trailer and shipping container loaded upon it are as generic as can be. Vocational trucks, on the other hand, are purpose-built to perform very specific tasks and are likely to have controls and driving characteristics that are just as unique as the jobs they’re intended to perform. They include vehicles such as:

In the same way that these vocational trucks are as different as the tasks they’re designed to perform, they may also be as unique from one another because of the way in which they are typically manufactured. Usually, the vehicle chassis and body are manufactured by one or two companies, then assembled by yet another company called an “upfitter,” that is also responsible for the final configuration of the vehicle and its controls. As a result, for example, the control system for one garbage truck may be significantly different from the control system for another garbage truck, depending upon who was responsible for manufacturing and assembling the various components. Learning to safely operate and control these vehicles, therefore, often requires a significant amount of training and experience with each individual vehicle. A driver who does not have this additional experience may not be able to safely drive and operate the vocational truck.

Likewise, the specific handling characteristics may be as unique as the tasks of these vehicles. The driver of a crane truck may need to be much more aware of overhead clearances for the vehicle’s crane gear. The driver of a cement truck must be aware that the vehicle — especially when loaded – is much more top heavy and prone to tipping than other commercial vehicles.

Vocational Trucks and Personal Injury Claims and Lawsuits

Experienced personal injury attorneys will be aware that truck accident cases tend to be much more “document-intensive” than other types of motor vehicle accident injury claims and litigation. This is because truck drivers and trucking carriers are required to document a great many things that record the status of the vehicle and its load, the training, experience, and driving record of the truck driver, and the safety processes and procedures implemented and (hopefully) followed by the trucking company. They also document the relationship between the driver and the trucking company, including whether or not the employer trained and verified the driver’s ability to operate the specific vocational trucks operated by the employer. When a personal injury claim arises from the operation of a vocational truck, an examination of these required records will be crucial because they can establish or bolster liability on the part of both driver and employer if they are missing or inadequate.

View this local news report showing the graphic results from the tendency of top-heavy cement trucks to overturn:

California Truck Accident Lawyers

Hello, I’m Ed Smith, a Truck Accident Lawyer in California.  Seasoned personal injury attorneys know that proper training and experience are vital to the safe operation of commercial vehicles and that this is even more so the case with vocational trucks, which may be uniquely difficult to control and drive safely. If you or a loved one has sustained a serious injury due to negligence of a commercial truck driver, please contact us today at (916) 921-6400 or toll-free at (800) 404-5400 for free, friendly advice. You can also reach us through our online contact form.

We are proud to be members of the National Association of Distinguished Counsel and the Million Dollar Advocates Forum.

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