Even though qualified, reliable independent contractors (ICs) in transportation are currently outpaced by demand, and will be for the foreseeable future, your company cannot afford the cost of ignoring proper qualifications. The risks of contracting with an unqualified IC can leave your company open to lawsuits and fines at best, or bankruptcy and prison time at worst. Highly regulated industries such as transportation are especially vulnerable.
As the industry struggles to attract and retain drivers, some companies may be tempted to cut corners by contracting less qualified drivers.
Contracting an unqualified IC may make it easier for you to move your freight today, but it also leaves your company vulnerable to fines, lawsuits, and other avoidable risks.
The value of background screenings
As a transportation provider, you set your qualification standards to make sure you and your ICs comply with applicable laws and to make sure they are providing services that are safe, professional, and reliable. The size vehicles and the nature of your operation dictate any legal qualification requirements you must meet. For example, if you are an over-the-road motor carrier, you may need 10 years of the IC’s work history, pre-contracting drug and alcohol testing, DOT medical certification, and motor vehicle driving records.
Good qualification standards and practices help you identify and work with drivers that are willing and able to transport cargo safely, professionally, and responsibly. That safe, professional, reliable transportation reflects on your brand with shippers and the public.
As a transportation provider, your company may be held liable for any damages caused by a driver, whether that driver is your employee, an independent contractor, or the employee of your master contractor. It all depends on the size of the vehicle involved, the nature of the freight involved, and the location of the accident. Plaintiff lawyers today will attack your qualification process. They are going to find out if the driver had anything bad in their driving record or work history. They are going to find out if the driver had a criminal record. They are going to find out if the driver was “qualified” under the law, under your own qualification standards, and under what the plaintiff lawyer thinks is industry standard. They are going to look at your qualification processes and standards both before the driver was ever allowed to drive, and after the driver started working with you.
Your best defense to such plaintiff lawyer attacks is to establish and consistently follow high qualification standards and processes. The key is you want to prove to a jury that you go, and that you went in this case, above and beyond the law’s minimum qualification requirements to ensure anyone transporting cargo from you has a track record of safe habits, and that you did what you reasonably could to help that driver be safe and make safe decisions every day.
You can do that in part by establishing and following good qualification standards and processes that include regularly reviewing motor vehicle driving records, reviewing work history, reviewing criminal history, and meeting all legal qualification requirements for your employee drivers, ICs that drive, and the drivers of master contractors.
A sure remedy in troubling times
The shortage of qualified IC drivers will not end anytime soon. Indeed, it is only predicted to worsen. But working with unqualified drivers leaves your company open to incredible risk. And tasking your compliance department with all the additional paperwork associated with creating and updating files for qualified IC drivers can be costly and burdensome to your staff.
But there’s another option: You could partner with a reliable company such as Openforce to manage your IC relationships. Openforce has the qualification tools and relationships to automate and ease your qualification burdens.
In addition, Openforce’s Driver Monitoring and Safety Education product helps you build a culture of safety by collecting motor vehicle records (MVRs) and other data to alert you in near-real time of violations such as speeding tickets, collisions or suspended licenses. Plus, we include a robust LMS system of video modules providing proactive education to develop and retain great drivers while allowing you to track course completion.
You should concentrate on your business. Let Openforce save you time, money, and hassle with your IC workforce. Contact us today to learn how we can help you onboard qualified ICs, faster.
Openforce is the leader in technology-driven services that reduce operating costs and mitigate risk for companies using independent contractors. Our cloud-based applications help companies and contractors alike achieve more sustainable, profitable growth by removing financial, operational, and compliance barriers to getting business done.