Highway traffic accidents involving tractor trailers that incur property damages and injury or death are often blamed on the truck or driver whether at fault or not. And more and more we see them resulting in nuclear verdicts. Could this be partly the fault of the public’s all too common perceived notion of truck drivers as drug and alcohol abusers driving fatigued and half aware?
Watching evening news reports on television I see advertisements from legal firms touting, “Big truck crashes, big payouts” and others like it. Many times it’s something or someone else that causes these devastating crashes. But because of sheer size the trucks must be the cause. So the drivers and trucking companies get forced out of business by nuclear verdicts that could take lifetimes to pay off.
Don’t get us wrong, we’re not down on lawyers. Most provide necessary functions that so many of us require, from writing wills to buying or selling real estate and providing informative insights into laws that apply to us.
But a few of them are just downright greedy, saying “You don’t pay a dime unless and until we win your case.” Then they go ahead and run down truckers to get their big payout. How is that fair?
What Small Fleets can Do
A small fleet can ill afford a nuclear verdict and may never recover from just one such decision. But what can you do when you own a fleet of a few trucks and you’re competing for loads to stay alive?
It’s time to get proactive. Get your drivers enrolled in life-saving courses. Equip them with good first aid kits in case of a mishap. And remove as many distractions from the cabs of your trucks to cut down on inattentive driving even if it’s just for a second or two.
Driver distraction is not difficult to imply and may cost you. Distraction is a well-known cause of many motor vehicle accidents. Keep it at bay by leaving devices alone while driving. Use a Bluetooth head set for phone calls to be hands free.
A Case for Cameras
Equip your trucks with dash cams that can show the cause of an accident and provide evidence to a court to disprove claims of fault against your drivers, assuming they are not at fault. Driver facing cameras can show you in real time if a driver is being distracted while operating your truck. This will enable you to coach your drivers to eliminate this bad habit. We are glued to devices. Let’s do our part to stop this harmful practice.
While drivers may protest driver facing cameras as an invasion of privacy, demonstrate to them the importance of good driving habits while informing them of the possible consequences of a large settlement against them and the fleet.
Maintenance is Key
Preventive maintenance is also imperative to keep your trucks in top operating condition and thereby avoid on-road component failures that may cause accidents. Create and document PM schedules and stick to them. Always keep accurate records of PMs completed satisfactorily. These can become a major case for your defense in the event of facing a crash investigation.
For even more protection, invest in telematics that can provide in real time a reenactment of the actual crash, and showing the truth of who is the cause. And studies have proven that the cause is the fault of the truck operator in only 16% to 20% of truck crashes. That leaves smaller vehicles at fault 80% of the time.
Crash mitigation technology is available aftermarket for trucks in use without it. It can help to prevent or lessen the severity of an accident. These are all strategies to help your small fleet in the event of a serious accident. We hope you will take advantage of some of them to protect your trucks, drivers and your business from the effects of big payouts, ie nuclear verdicts. It may even lower your insurance costs if you present your strategies to your insurance person.
We apologize for ranting on lawyers who may be skirting the unscrupulous, but someone has to speak up for truckers and small fleets. The ideas covered here are not to be taken as legal advice, they are simply strategies you can employ to help when necessary if one of your trucks has a mishap. So don’t be the one who says, “It’ll never happen to my drivers”, because you just never know.
And let’s not forget the fact that truck drivers are professionals and give them a chance to present evidence on their behalf.
Happy motoring and safety first.