I did not say they could not be at fault. I said it is extremely difficult to impute liability to a principal for the acts of his independent contractor. This is and always has been the general rule of law in Alabama.
The question becomes one of agency. For the purposes of tort liability, the agency question is subject to a fact based analysis centered on control. How much control does the principal have over its independent contractor?
The reason I asked you whether the trucking company owns it's own trucks is because it would be a key fact in analyzing the control issue, and I'd be willing to bet my law degree that the employees driving trucks owned by the company would not be considered independent contractors for the purposes of tort liability. Whether the other "independent contractors" driving trucks not owned by the company would be considered employees would involve a lot more questions about the business that aren't important for this discussion.
The point is that if a plaintiff can show that the principal has enough control over the contractor and his work, then the law treats the contractor like an employee and the principal can be held indirectly liable for that individual's tortuous conduct.
Conversely, if the defendant can show that it didn't maintain sufficient control over the manner in which the contractor's business is to be conducted, then it becomes very unlikely that the principal would ever be held liable for the independent contractor's conduct.
It would be up to the University's own counsel to arrange arm's length relationships with its vendors, in order to insulate itself from liability. Think of JHS like a strip mall leasing retail space to vendors. If done properly, suing Auburn for a vendor's actions would be like suing the owner of a strip mall for the bartender at Buffalo Wild Wings over-serving a patron. Good luck with that!
This isn't as clear cut an arrangement as the example I just used might be, and it will take careful consideration and counsel to execute.