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Is Your Pre-Hire Process Putting You At Risk for a Nuclear Verdict?

Est. 2 min read

With Nuclear Verdicts on the rise, it’s imperative fleets understand why Nuclear Verdicts occur. 

Fundamentally, all Nuclear Verdict cases revolve around the question “Was this fleet negligent in ensuring safe operations?” While that can relate to almost every aspect of a fleet’s operations, there are some processes that are significantly more likely to result in a Nuclear Verdict than others when conducted improperly.

In the American Trucking Research Institute’s (ATRI’s) 2020 report on Nuclear Verdicts, the authors found that in 100% of cases where lack of a clean driver history was used as evidence against a fleet and the case was not settled, that fleet lost their case.

Similarly, they found that in 87.5% of cases where “unfavorable hiring practices” was used as evidence against a fleet and the case was not settled, that fleet lost their case. In order to protect your fleet, you need to understand what so many fleets get wrong about their pre-hire process, and how your current process might be putting you at risk.

Why Unfavorable Hiring Practices Often Results in a Nuclear Verdict

The conventional wisdom is that if you run an MVR check and the driver has no clear indicators of risk, then you can’t be found negligent for hiring them. This cannot be relied on as a defense.

Plaintiff’s attorneys prove negligence by highlighting inconsistencies in your data and processes. Many fleets treat their hiring standards and retention standards as separate entities, but to a plaintiff’s attorney, they’re one and the same. 

You have to align your hiring criteria with your retention criteria. After all, if you wouldn’t retain someone with the record of a driver you’ve hired, or hire someone with the record of a driver you’ve retained, you’ve created an inconsistency in your employment process, which can be grounds for negligence.

Most Fleets Separate Their Pre-Hire and Onboarding Processes

Most fleets have one process for managing applicants before they’ve been hired, and one process for managing drivers after they’ve been hired. Decisions of hiring and retention are often made using separate software and spreadsheets, and these employment decisions are often made by different people.

This separation is a breeding ground for inconsistencies. Even if your hiring and retention criteria are the same on paper, failing to manage them as part of a single, greater process opens your fleet up to vulnerabilities plaintiff’s attorneys can exploit. In court, you need to be able to prove your fleet abides by its aligned hiring and retention standards, not that it simply has them.

If you don’t have the same people—using the same software—conducting these processes, you can’t be surprised when there’s a miscommunication or oversight. However accidental an error may be, a plaintiff’s attorney can use it as evidence against your fleet.

How Fleets Can Correct This Common Mistake

Your pre and post-hire data should be consolidated and organized within a single platform, so inconsistencies are easy for managers to spot. Additionally, you shouldn’t silo recruiting, onboarding, and safety managers into separate teams. They should all work together to support your fleet’s mission by regularly sharing information and interacting with your drivers throughout their full tenure.

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