Posts

truck accident procedure

No one wants to manage cargo claims or contract disputes, and a nuclear verdict in a catastrophic accident is a trucking nightmare. Unfortunately, if you’re in the industry long enough, there’s a good chance you will find yourself handling accident claims. To protect your driver and your company in the event of litigation, make sure you have a strong truck accident procedure in place well before it’s needed.

1. Establish A Clear Internal Procedure

Eric Zalud, Partner and Associate Chairman of the Litigation Department and Chairman of the Transportation & Logistics at Benesch Law

Eric Zalud, Benesch Law

Once an accident occurs, you’re working against the clock. It’s critically important to have laid the groundwork beforehand. We spoke with Eric Zalud, Partner and Associate Chairman of the Litigation Department and Chairman of the Transportation & Logistics at Benesch Law. He emphasized the importance of the “Golden Hour” and arguably a golden first few days.

These hours immediately after the incident are critically important for collecting evidence, alerting key members of your response team, and handling medical emergencies. If a lawsuit occurs, it may not happen immediately, so it’s important to preserve any information that may support your case as close to the time of the incident as possible.

One of the best ways to ensure that accidents are handled smoothly and efficiently is to establish a clear communication tree. Zalud notes that this often starts with the driver contacting the safety manager who then takes the lead in the rapid response efforts. In some companies, the in-house counsel or even the company CEO may lead the accident response efforts. You should also be prepared with a team of responders who help form the line of defense.

When asked who companies should keep in their rapid response Rolodex, Zalud recommended:

  • Approved legal counsel
  • Insurance carrier
  • Engineer
  • Hazmat unit
  • Truck manufacturer
  • Toxicologist
  • Company media spokesperson

Not all fleets need to have all of the listed resources in-house. For smaller fleets, maintaining an updated preferred provider list is a good accident response option. Any necessary responders should be contacted as quickly as possible after the crash to resolve the accident scene and preserve evidence for a later date.

2. Facilitate Driver Practice

Accidents are highly stressful situations, and even the best truck accident procedure in the world can’t perfectly predict human behavior. Drivers need to practice their role in the event of an accident so that they don’t freeze and forget important details. One method for training drivers is to use dashcam footage from previous accidents to proactively review safety procedures. This can be done either in group training or for the individual driver. Zalud notes that “drivers often are receptive to [the footage]. They get interested in what the camera is showing. That type of training also helps prevent accidents and also helps minimize liability.”

Safety incentive programs are another good way to encourage drivers to practice safe driving behavior. In addition to safe driver training, have drivers practice taking photos as documentation in the event of an accident. Drivers should use their phones for documentation only after the accident has occurred and they have secured the situation. As a baseline, drivers should photograph all vehicles involved, license plates and VIN numbers, regular and close-up shots of the damages, and pictures of the surrounding area and road conditions. Additional photos may be needed depending on the type of accident.

Drivers may be concerned about the repercussions of an accident on their job. Communicate that the best thing they can do is report the incident quickly and thoroughly without being overly defensive. Drivers should also receive clear instructions on what information to communicate to the safety manager and to any external responders.

3. Meticulously Document Accidents

A strong truck accident procedure includes detailed documentation from before and after the accident. It is the responsibility of the safety manager and/or your in-house counsel to keep current in HOS and FMCSA regulations as well as local, state, and municipal regulations and ordinances. Zalud adds that equipment information, maintenance records, and inspection data should all be part of systematically developed backdrop information that can help contextualize the accident. Safety managers should also have accurate records on all driver activity related to safety, including driver training, maintenance records logged and documentation of all pre-trip and post-trip inspections. 

In addition to traditional safety training and documentation, telematics and big data are becoming increasingly critical in accident proceedings. Outward-facing dash cams are standard equipment now, and they often help clarify the events of a truck accident. When asked about the role of dashcam footage in accidents, Zalud shared:

“Number one, they’re exonerative… That can kill many lawsuits in their embryonic phases. [On the other hand, if you are at fault,] knowing that can affect your dealings with the claimant or his or her counsel. You can cut a deal earlier. You can save litigation costs that way.”

A dashboard that enables crash analysis across your fleet over time is a valuable tool. The dashboard should include data that spans across your fleet and tracks statistics over time. At a minimum, document reasons, date, equipment failures, cost of repairs, preventability rating, drivers with multiple crashes, and similar information.

4. Keep Comprehensive Records

Tracking key data is only half of the equation. Securely retaining that data is just as vital, especially in the event of a catastrophic accident. The FMCSA has a three year requirement for accident record keeping, so that is the minimum length of time records should be on file. Failing to retain evidence can result in what’s known as a Spoliation Claim which can result in punitive damages. To avoid this, make sure to collect evidence early and preserve it securely to reduce your liability.

Ultimately, having a strong truck accident procedure is critical, but it’s only as good as your diligence in following it. Ensure that everyone in your fleet is confident in their role. A comprehensive truck accident procedure paired with well-documented driver training and meticulous record-keeping will help protect your driver and your company in the event of litigation. You may not be able to prevent a lawsuit, but you can reduce the liability and save valuable time and resources.

STAY UPDATED ON INDUSTRY TRENDS AND BEST PRACTICES

Join our community of thousands of employers who receive our updates.

safety incentive program for truck drivers

All trucking fleets have safety standards, so why is a safety incentive program so important? A safety incentive program can help motivate drivers to high standards AND help document strong safety behaviors. Incentive programs keep the focus positive. As an employer, you encourage the right behavior while also boosting company morale. This type of program infrastructure can be a great way to build driver loyalty and accomplish several safety priorities simultaneously.

Do I Really Need Safety Incentives?

The short answer is yes. Here’s why.

Most trucking companies have safety procedures and expectations, and some may also have specific metrics for their drivers. Fleet safety should be a high priority, and incentive programs are an excellent way to communicate that to drivers and encourage behavior changes

While it may not be glamorous, fleet safety and tracking are key to regulatory compliance. In the event of a safety incident, you may need to be able to demonstrate safety protocol among your team.

regulatory compliance checklist

An incentive program can encourage drivers to record their safe driving and creates a positive feedback loop. An incentive program that rewards strong performance is also good for company culture and team morale. Everyone wants to be recognized for a job well done, even if it is a job expectation. There’s also an undeniable benefit to your bottom line. A strong company culture is likely to reduce driver turnover, and that’s a tremendous economic advantage.

The benefits of a well-run safety incentive program also extend to recruiting and marketing. In addition to building internal morale, companies can build off a strong reputation and safety-centric messaging in marketing and recruitment efforts. Use driver recognition and feedback to help create positive brand recognition as a recruitment tool. 

What Should Be Part of a Safety Incentive Program?

A thoughtful safety incentive program has several distinct characteristics. First, if you are offering monetary incentives, offer enough to be meaningful to drivers. The exact amount will vary based on your location, the type of driver, and your standard compensation package. If a meaningful monetary incentive is out of the question for you, consider other ways to reward drivers. Internal or external recognition, visible insignia for drivers to show off, and flexible home time are just a few non-monetary possibilities that will still motivate drivers. Not all employees are motivated by the same thing, so you may also consider implementing a multi-pronged incentive program. Ultimately, decide what you are best able to offer, and create a strong program based on your resources. 

If a meaningful monetary incentive is out of the question for you, consider other awards that benefit drivers. There are many ways to motivate and reward hard work.

As you design or reshape your safety incentive program, keep sustainability and structure top of mind. Ensure that the program you develop is sustainable for your current and future staff. Even though safety incentive programs are often supplementary to other safety efforts, they take time to maintain. Design something within your capacity. In addition, make sure the safety program is incentivizing the right behavior. For example, a program based solely around mileage may be unintentionally encouraging drivers to drive beyond their safe limits. Thoughtfully determine success metrics when you launch the program. Then, adjust the metrics as needed when you determine points of improvement.

When to Offer Safety Incentives (And When They Won’t Work)

A successful implementation strategy for incentive programs effectively identifies “When.” Common choices for the program cycle are quarterly or annual rewards. To decide what is best for your fleet, you may need to consider the types of jobs you offer. Will your incentive program be effective for both local and regional drivers? If you prioritize safe driving miles, do drivers have similar routes? Or do some drivers have primarily rural routes while others are largely urban? How will this impact drivers’ ability to perform well in your program?

To decide what is best for your fleet, you may need to consider the types of jobs you offer. Then, decide what driver metric you will measure and how drivers will accumulate rewards.

Another timing question to consider is about rewards accrual. Will incentives accumulate for drivers or will they start clean for each new time increment? Similarly, decide whether to offer tiers of incentives or whether you will regularly feature a set of drivers like an employee of the month. Regardless of how you structure the program, start incorporating training and clear safety policies from the beginning as part of driver orientation. 

How to Communicate Safety Incentives to Drivers

happy truck driverEarly and often is the best rule of thumb for sharing a safety incentive program with drivers. Set clear expectations at the start so that drivers know how to succeed. Based on your metrics for driver incentives, tell drivers exactly what they need to do. The results should be measurable, so drivers feel it’s a fair and attainable goal. Then, share the program in clear, simple language so there’s no confusion or feeling of mystery! 

When you talk about the safety incentive program with drivers, make sure to convey the program as a reward! Internally define the program objective, then highlight the benefits and positive rewards to drivers. Avoid a system that is punitive and focuses on how drivers lose points. If designed and communicated well, your safety incentive program will stand out as a positive differentiator from other companies.

driver happiness and retention survey

FREE SURVEY REPORT

Driver Lifestyle & Job Happiness Survey

We surveyed over 400 CDL truck drivers nationwide to discover what makes them happy in their career and life. Access the survey report to see the results.

Get the Results

stop sexual harassment in trucking

Sexual harassment in the trucking industry is a documented problem. The good news is, many people want to promote safer work environments and stop harassment. Frequently, conversations center on women who experience sexual harassment. This is not a problem exclusively experienced by women, but in a heavily male-dominated field, it is often women who report incidents. As a result of the trucking shortage, more and more female drivers are entering the workforce, and safety on the job needs to be a priority.

Regardless of your personal feelings on the subject, it makes good business sense to take clear steps to stop sexual harassment in trucking. Small companies and large fleets alike can rely on a combination of policy and company culture. What’s a good way to check if you’re doing well? Look around you. Are women drivers and employees who you recruit staying with your company? If there is a disproportionately high level of churn among female employees, uncover the reasons for that turnover.

What is Considered Sexual Harassment?

  • Quid Pro Quo: This is one of the easiest forms of harassment to identify, though it may not be easy to report or document. Quid Pro Quo is an explicit request or demand from someone in a position of direct or perceived power of “I do this for you, then you do this for me.”
  • Hostile Work Environment: This harassment is often much harder to spot. At its core, a hostile work environment is any unwanted speech or conduct that makes someone else uncomfortable and inhibits someone from doing their job. It could include anything from crude jokes or suggestive comments to inappropriate photos or shirts to nonconsensual touching or other forms of unwanted attention. Hostile work environment complaints are evaluated based on how the comment or action was perceived, not how it was intended. So, make sure employees are clear on your company policies and expectations.

How Can You Promote A Safe Workplace?

1. Policies

Many companies share sexual harassment policies during driver orientation. Unfortunately, while that may be sufficient if legal action is taken, it may not be very effective in preventing incidents. During onboarding, drivers receive a lot of new information, and the complexity of legal policies makes them difficult to understand at the best of times. 

Policies should be clear to everyone on your staff. Provide a straight forward reporting structure for documenting an incident before a situation arises.

Instead, remind employees frequently of your policies by incorporating it into your company culture. At their core, policies should be comprehensive but clear to your staff. Communicate a zero-tolerance policy of sexual harassment in your workplace. In addition, provide an uncomplicated, consistent reporting structure for documentation of incidents before there is an incident to report. Encourage employees to use this structure if they do need to report a situation.

2. Training

In addition to training all drivers, recruiters, and other employees on your policies, consider offering safety training. Offer this training to women or anyone else who wants to join the conversation about safety on the road and in the workplace. The underlying question is, “What can you do to set drivers up for safety?” 

As an employer, help prepare female and other drivers for these situations. Communicate that it is not their fault. It’s important not to place blame or hold the injured person responsible for the situation. Then, share best practices for preventing and confronting uncomfortable situations. Encourage drivers to be aware of their surroundings. Share resources such as the National Sexual Assault Hotline (1-800-656-4673) if drivers want to reach out for confidential help.

3. Reporting

female truck driversUnfortunately, many drivers will experience sexual harassment on the job. Decide how you will handle sexual harassment situations before they arise. Have an open-door reporting policy on reporting. Make it as easy as possible for drivers to bring an incident to your attention. Prior to an incident, clearly share how drivers can expect reports to be handled. If there are specific forms of documentation you require, make sure your employees know what that is. Take care not to set barriers that unintentionally repress reporting. 

Having a designated check-in person is another great way to encourage a culture of safety. Employees should know that they can approach that person with sexual harassment reports. If drivers aren’t coming to you, it may mean that they are too nervous or uncomfortable to broach the subject. Designate someone on staff to periodically reach out to drivers proactively about their experience on the job. 

4. Accountability

Accountability includes two sides when it comes to stopping sexual harassment in the trucking industry. The first is accountability within your company. When someone makes a sexual harassment report, it’s important that staff are trained to take the complaint seriously. In addition to prioritizing strong company values, there could be legal consequences for ignoring or glossing over a sexual harassment report. 

Hold your company and your employees responsible for their actions. A safe workplace benefits all employees.

The second aspect of accountability is to hold any employees involved responsible for their actions. Clarify how your company will follow up on the report and what the consequences will be. Clearly state (in writing when possible) what will happen if there is a repeat incident. Ultimately, a safer workplace is a positive asset for all employees.

driver happiness and retention survey

FREE SURVEY REPORT

Driver Lifestyle & Job Happiness Survey

We surveyed over 400 CDL truck drivers nationwide to discover what makes them happy in their career and life. Access the survey report to see the results.

Get the Results

4 Reasons Verifiable Fleet Safety Needs to be a Top Priority

Fleet safety is one of the most important things for a trucking company to prioritize. One bad safety incident can cost thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars. It can cause a ripple of damaging effects for years: in bad publicity, drivers turning down jobs, and overall a long recovery from the incident. Though not every accident is avoidable, most have causes that prove to be preventable. So here are 4 reasons verifiable fleet safety needs to be a top priority.

1. Mitigate Your Risk: Drivers

Your drivers are your most valuable assets. You put a lot of time and effort into hiring them, so be sure to put that same effort and time into keeping them. Driver health is one of the best ways to mitigate risk over the road. Healthy minds and bodies make for safer drivers. If you have drivers that are overly tired or stressed, they’re more likely to make mental errors that can cause safety issues. And drivers who are not trained well certainly won’t be set up to be safe and successful drivers. Think about what you can do to help support your drivers’ health and well-being. Put plans in place to start making driver health a priority. And share those plans to everyone in the company.

2. Mitigate Your Risk: Equipment

Put risk mitigation steps in place with your equipment as well to help with your overall fleet safety. Staying current with all the required service and safety checks required for your company’s equipment is especially important.

Keeping your fleet in good repair can keep your employees more engaged. The state of your equipment can have a big impact on your drivers and how attractive your company might be to new employees. Have a clear fleet maintenance policy in place.

3. Create a Culture of Fleet Safety

Who is responsible for fleet safety? Is it left up to the drivers behind the wheel? Does concern for safety come from the top of the organization down? Is everyone aware of your safety policies? If you’re not sure of these answers, one of the best things you can do at this time is get your safety policies written down. And then share them with everyone. This is the best way to get a culture of safety started. Bake safety into the foundation of the company and communicate it both internally and externally. If not, it will always fall to someone else to be responsible for fleet safety.

4. Document Emergency Procedures

As mentioned, not every incident is 100% avoidable, and it’s true that accidents will happen. Even when you take precautions, you and your drivers need to be ready to react in case of an emergency. Having solid, documented processes in place is very important when talking about overall fleet safety. Ensuring your drivers know what do to and who to contact when a problem arises can help lessen the impact of the damage and the time getting the situation resolved.

Document your processes and procedures for any type of emergency that might arise. Ensure that your drivers have quick access to clear emergency contact information and steps to take in case of an emergency.

Taking these steps to ensure you’ve got a good start to verifiable fleet safety is an important way to create a culture of safety in your company. Working to always communicate and share updates to any of these policies is something that should be built-in to decision making and change management throughout the organization. Making that everyone in the organization is responsible for safety can make your company an attractive option when hiring new drivers.

ultimate guide to truck driver recruiting

Ultimate Guide to Truck Driver Recruiting

Current ways of recruiting truck drivers just don’t work anymore. That’s because recruiting isn’t a transaction. This ultimate guide helps carriers recruit for retention.

Get the Ebook