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When a truck driver needs interpreters for deposition, the company has a big problem

Written by Steve Gursten Posted December 18th, 2014

49 CFR § 391.11(b)(2) requires all truckers be proficient in English (h2)


Here’s a common mistake many who litigate truck accidents make: They fail to understand that truck drivers must be proficient in English, and if they’re not, they have a negligent supervision and negligent entrustment case against the company.

Remember, trucks are different. Every once in a while, a defendant requires an interpreter during a deposition. This makes sense. If a witness is going to be examined under oath (and penalty of perjury) that person should have the benefit of fully understanding each and every single they’re asked.

But this doesn’t make sense when we’re talking about a truck accident, and the person requesting the interpreter is the defendant truck driver.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) contain a provision requiring all truck drivers to be proficient in English. That rule can be found in § 391.11(b)(2), requiring that all truckers “[c]an read and speak the English language sufficiently to converse with the general public, to understand highway traffic signs and signals in the English language, to respond to official inquiries, and to make entries on reports and records.”

Think about it — if a truck driver has to be proficient in English such that he can “respond to official inquiries,” how in the world can that same trucker be in compliance with § 391.11?

And remember, it’s not just a truck driver who can land himself in hot water by asking for an interpreter during a deposition. Ultimately, it’s the trucking company’s responsibility to make sure they’re putting safe, compliant drivers on the highway.

So, next time you’re litigating a serious truck accident case and the defendant trucker claims he needs an interpreter or there was some kind of a language barrier at the scene, don’t forget to point out § 391.11(b)(2).

Related information:

5 ways to depose a truck company safety expert


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About Steve Gursten

Attorney Steven Gursten is president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association and past president of the American Association for Justice Trucking Litigation Group. He has been named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Leader in the Law" for his efforts to prevent truck accidents and promote national truck safety. Steve was also a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Lawyer of the Year" for a record settlement in a truck accident case. He has received the top reported truck accident jury verdict and top reported truck accident settlement in Michigan for multiple years, according to published year-end compilations of all jury verdicts and personal injury settlements by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He has been named a "Top 50 Super Lawyer," by SuperLawyers, is listed in Best Lawyers in America, and has been awarded an AV-rating by Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating for legal ability and ethics. Steve speaks to lawyers throughout the country on truck accident litigation. He is a founding member of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable, head of Michigan Auto Law, and has dedicated his legal career to making our roads safer.
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