Freight carriers have an obligation to the public to not create unnecessary dangers on the roads. They can’t dodge those responsibiities by hiring an independant driver who has no assets or insurance and then, when there is an accident, claim it was the driver’s fault and not theirs.
Under the law, the freight carrier’s safety obligations are "non-delegable." That means the carrier can’t pass the obligations off to a driver. A freight carrier can thus be held vicariously liable for the negligence of the truck driver, even though the truck driver isn’t one of its emplyess.
Three requirements must be satisfied to show a nondelegable duty in a trucking case:
- A carrier must be involved;
- The carrier must be providing transportation or service by a commercial motor vehicle weighing at least 10,001 pounds;
- The activity that lead to the accident must involve possible danger such as motor vehicles on public highways.
Requirements 2 and 3 are factual questions that are usually easy to meet.
So, who is a carrier? A carrier is a person or company providing motor vehicle transportation for compensation. The transportation includes services related to the movement of property, including arranging for the transport , as well as, receipt, and delivery. "Carrier" often includes a freight broker who puts shippers in touch with truck operators and who may also have some responsibility for the load.