DRIVERS PUT A COMPANY AT RISK
Eight recommendations to protect a fleet, regardless of size
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, while Americans drove less in 2020 due to the pandemic, early estimates show that an estimated 38,680 people died in motor vehicle accidents that year.
By Randy Boss, CRM, MWCA, SHRM-SCP
With over 40 years under my belt as an insurance and risk advisor, I’ve had my share of calls that start out, “Randy, we’ve just had an auto accident.” And if you have been in the insurance industry long enough, you’ve had those same calls.
My first question is always, “Was anyone hurt?” And I always breathe a sigh of relief when they say, “No, just damage to vehicles and/or property.” But that is not always the case. Auto accidents still account for the highest number of severe injuries and fatalities in the workplace.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, while Americans drove less in 2020 due to the pandemic, early estimates show that an estimated 38,680 people died in motor vehicle accidents that year-the most significant projected number since 2007 and a 7.2% increase over 2019.
By not recommending to your clients that they have a formal fleet safety program, you may be putting the safety and welfare of their employees and company at risk. Companies should not tolerate unsafe acts and should establish the policies and procedures needed to keep employees safe on the road. This can also reduce the potential for costly lawsuits.
What could an agent advisor recommend in a fleet safety program to address these critical issues? An effective fleet safety program should be part of the safety culture. It should be comprehensive, up to date, supported by management, and be able to reach each employee.
Here are eight things you can recommend an employer do to protect their employees, company, and the community:
1. Identify all of their drivers and not just the ones who drive company-owned vehicles. Include those employees who use personal and rented vehicles.
2. Make sure management is on board so that the plan is followed with no exceptions made. Management’s commitment to the health and safety of employees needs to go beyond talk; they should show by their actions that safety is a core company value.
3. Drivers must be screened and selected carefully, even in a tight labor market. If drivers are not safe, you have no chance to have an excellent long-term safety record. Follow clear hiring standards and conduct a thorough screening process for anyone who drives on company business.
4. Train drivers and be certain they understand vehicle safety policies and procedures. All drivers need to be trained on safe driving strategies and techniques, and should receive instruction in defensive driving.
5. Drive home the point that the primary cause of all injuries and crashes is employee behavior. Managing drivers is essential in helping to ensure that they are following fleet safety rules and driving safely.
6. Manage accidents when they occur, including a thorough investigation to get to the root cause and reduce the potential for future losses. This can help lower accident costs. Effective accident investigations show employees that you are concerned for their safety and well-being. Address/prevent liability by identifying and eliminating hazards. Correct unsafe acts and unsafe conditions.
7. Establish written policies and procedures that set clear, consistent expectations.
8. Devise a formalized plan of vehicle inspection, repair, and maintenance. This is crucial not only to reducing costly breakdowns but also to providing defense if an accident occurs.
One of the worst auto accidents in history was a 1988 Kentucky school bus accident. A bus full of children was struck by a pick-up truck driven by an intoxicated driver, resulting in 27 deaths and 34 injuries, most of them severe. It remains the deadliest bus crash in U.S. history. The drunk driver received a 16-year prison sentence.
How would one of your clients feel if they hired this person and failed to run a driving record? What would they say when called to the stand in court and asked, “How could you have hired this person and put them into a vehicle to drive with such a bad driving record?”
It’s up to us as insurance and risk advisors to show our clients what can go wrong, so they can do the right thing before something bad happens.
A formal, written fleet safety program is essential whether it’s to operate a few vehicles or a large fleet. Such a program can help your clients reduce the risk of crashes, protect their employees, lower vehicle downtime and repair costs, comply with driver and vehicle regulations, protect their public image, and control insurance costs.
As risk advisors we need to help those organizations we serve identify the risk their drivers and vehicles pose to their business, as well as provide a roadmap to establish a vehicle safety program for fleets of any size. They will appreciate the advice.
Randy Boss is a Certified Risk Manager at Ottawa Kent in Jenison, Michigan. As a Risk Manager, he designs, builds and implements risk management and insurance plans for middle market companies in the areas of safety, work comp, human resources, property/casualty and benefits. He has over 40 years’ experience and has been at Ottawa Kent for 39 years. He is the co-founder of emergeapps.com, web apps for insurance agents to share with employers. Randy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.