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Ten tips for avoiding crashes, litigation

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Editor-At-Large

Every trucking and transportation organization wants to ensure the safety of all vehicles on the road. The Department of Transportation reports that commercial truck crashes are on the decline, but in 2013 there were more than 92,000 crashes involving large trucks and more than 3,500 fatalities, at a cost of $99 billion.

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According to Michael Nischan, vice president, transportation & logistics risk control at EPIC Insurance Brokers and Consultants, “Collisions can be devastating for a commercial motor vehicle operation, so it’s crucial to understand ways to prevent crashes and costly litigation. By implementing 10 basic practices, carriers can enhance safety, reduce crash risk, reduce costs and avoid potentially costly litigation.” Here is a checklist:

  1. Have an accountable, knowledgeable team for risk management, compliance and safety. A team can successfully implement risk and operational process throughout your organization when it understands the role risk plays in daily operations.
  2. Create and utilize a customized transportation management program. Educate everyone—executives, managers, drivers and support staff—on safety issues in a standardized process. This ensures everyone understands what’s expected.
  3. Communicate policies to drivers; provide a driver handbook. Regulations don’t require management programs, but it’s difficult to administer policies, procedures and expectations without one. Start with the minimum—a handbook for every driver.
  4. Utilize a training program for management and drivers. Just because someone has transportation experience doesn’t mean they know how you expect them to do it. Indoctrinate everyone so your policies and procedures are clear.
  5. Keep management and training programs current. Keep your content up to date as regulatory changes occur.
    Operating under current regulatory requirements and staying current with trends and best practices is a must.
  6. Use standardized processes to hire and retain the best drivers. Good drivers are in short supply. Standardized processes will help you attract and retain the best drivers by demonstrating they work for a company that cares about them, their safety and their equipment.
  7. Require initial road tests for drivers; evaluations after events/collisions. Initial road tests give visibility into a candidate’s driving performance and an opportunity to identify crash risk. If your driver is involved in a collision or near-event, always conduct a post-event road test to identify where additional training is needed.
  8. Utilize a pre-employment screening program. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s PSP provides additional crash and inspection data on driver candidates. An FMCSA study found that companies using PSP have 8% lower crash rates and 17% lower driver out-of-service rates.
  9. Educate drivers on health and wellness. Keeping drivers healthy means an efficient, productive workforce. Programs on smoking cessation, exercise and healthy weight control can make for better drivers and lower healthcare costs.
  10. Implement a solid post-crash response plan. We all dread a catastrophic crash, but without a plan there’s no ability to manage it. Have guidelines on preserving the scene, communicating with media and post-crash drug and alcohol testing. Clearly outline what the driver, company and management should do following a crash.

“These ten practices, on average, will deliver ROI of over three to five times your investment—directly impacting the bottom line,” Nischan adds.

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Controlling costs is always a major concern for fleets. But most appreciate the fact that responsible procedures such as those mentioned here are the key to helping protect motorists, drivers, cargo and equipment, and demonstrate a commitment to responsible operation and safety.

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