The Accidental Trucker

WHEN A TRUCKING accident occurs, companies and especially their managers should be properly trained to respond quickly to an incident, investigate what occurred and implement strategies to better manage similar situations in the future.

To prepare employees, fleet managers first can establish specific instructions to follow when an accident occurs. This includes clearly communicating proper procedures to all employees — whether they are behind the wheel or a desk. Employees also should know the answers to the following questions:

  • What happens once a company representative is at the accident scene?

  • What are drivers responsible for after an accident occurs?

  • Who will obtain witness information and contact the insurance company?

  • If necessary, how will a cleanup be organized?

At an accident site, all parties have important obligations. If possible, a manager should go to the site to take care of employee injuries and assess any property damage. It is important for the manager to prepare a response plan in advance, rather than make hasty and costly decisions during a stressful time. For example, a company should have a qualified contractor in a ready list of contacts in case fuel, oil or other materials are spilled at an accident. If a random contractor is contacted, he may be underqualified and cause additional expenses or further damage.

If the police want to quickly clear the site, it may be important for a driver to know how to photograph or document the site. For example, drivers and managers can assist in collecting information about the incident and identifying potential witnesses.

Also, companies should have a qualified claims adjustors investigate facts and collect evidence at the accident scene to minimize their client's liability. An adjuster may need to manage contractors concerning ongoing spill cleanup, which often can be a challenge.

After an accident, businesses should evaluate feedback on two levels to avoid the potentially high costs of insurance claims. First, examine how the accident occurred in addition to addressing insurance and liability concerns. An accident investigation from the operational perspective will help to provide managers with an understanding of contributing causes and preventability.

Managers then should determine if there are any incident-related consistencies occurring company-wide. Companies should establish steps to prevent recurring trends and future accidents.

Also, companies should track incident frequency and accumulated cost as an operational rate, such as employees' injuries per hours worked, vehicle accidents per traveled miles, overall cost of insurance and deductibles per unit of product delivered. This will put the impact of accident costs and related expenses into perspective.

Regardless of a company's size, an accident information database can be useful in managing future claims — and enusre that employees are prepared when an accident strikes.