Not-So-Big Rigs

When it comes to fleet safety, look beyond your truck drivers.

It is easy to get fixated on an obvious problem, but it's the ones that catch us off guard that can prove exceptionally costly. That tends to be the case for waste companies when handling fleet safety issues. Focus is squarely placed on the obvious area of potential losses — the drivers on the collection side of the business — while other drivers involved in other operations often fall through the safety management cracks.

Driver safety programs should extend beyond collection drivers and address all employees who must drive on the job. This includes — but is not limited to — service and maintenance staff, the sales force, and executives.

A company's written driver safety program must be applied to all drivers at all levels. Such a program establishes a company's mandatory seatbelt policy, substance abuse policy, personal/family use policy, and policies addressing the in-vehicle use of cellular phones or other electronic devices.

While an employee may have a reputation for being a great salesperson, his driving record and accident history must be considered if his job requires him to drive for a significant portion of his day. Typically, insurers advise their auto clients not to accept drivers with more than three moving violation convictions or major violations, or involvement in more than two preventable accidents involving personal injury or property damage during the last three years. Likewise, it is not usually acceptable to hire drivers with convictions for any alcohol or drug-related driving offenses during the past five years.

It is standard practice to review a commercial driver's motor vehicle record (MVR). But similar precautions should be taken for any potential hire whose responsibilities will include driving. Likewise, all employees can benefit from driver training, which may include completion of a defensive driving course and regular reviews of company policies. These established policies and procedures should cover vehicle maintenance and inspection requirements, accident reporting and investigations, and outline disciplinary actions in the event of a driving violation or incident.

Accidents involving vehicles other than commercial trucks have led to significant liability claims against many waste companies. In fact, one recent case resulted in close to $2 million in losses. In this instance, a waste company salesperson was traveling in an unfamiliar area and made a left turn at a stop sign under the assumption that he was turning onto a two-lane road. In actuality, the road was a four-lane divided highway, and he turned west onto the eastbound lanes, resulting in a head-on collision with another vehicle carrying three people. The waste firm's insurer helped resolve three bodily injury claims totaling more than $1.7 million.

In this case, inattentiveness and carelessness were deemed the two contributing factors that resulted in the accident. The company was previously reluctant to invest too much money into risk-control services to improve driver safety. This incident prompted more action and a renewed commitment to ensuring that their safety culture was instilled in all employees. As part of its insurance renewal, the company is currently reviewing its fleet safety manual with its insurer and is looking to run a variety of on-site programs, including defensive driving training, geared specifically toward its sales force.

Clearly, waste companies can't afford to overlook the risk posed by any of their drivers. While no one can expect to police an individual driver's attention and diligence at all times, companies can give their drivers the tools, training and incentives to enable safer driving.

Matt Gartner works for XL Specialty Insurance Company.

Related Stories