In Writing

THE AVERAGE TRUCK ACCIDENT costs $217,000. The price tag, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Washington, D.C., includes medical expenses, emergency services, property damage, lost productivity and the monetary value of “pain and suffering.” Because maneuvering a large truck through congested roadways is still a high risk task — despite technological innovations — it is evident why waste companies are investing in strong fleet safety programs.

Trucking insurance represents a tight market in which premiums continue to rise because of the high volume of losses. There are fewer companies providing insurance, so the price of premiums is not extremely competitive.

Waste fleets seeking reasonable premiums can benefit by demonstrating attention to formal safety programs, as well as taking action to correct problems and prevent accidents. A written driver safety program will help to reduce costs and the possibility of accidents, as well as assure compliance with regulations.

Safety programs are best implemented when top management believes in a safe philosophy and a written safety policy is created and communicated to all employees. A written safety policy, especially when supported by management, establishes the idea that safety is an important part of operations, regardless of the type of industry or employees' job responsibilities.

In developing a policy, it is important to consider some basic approaches:

  • The fewer safety rules, the better. And rules should be written in a format that can be easily understood.

  • Supervisors and all members of management should set an example by following safety rules themselves.

  • Prompt corrective actions should be taken for failure to comply with rules, with an emphasis on group education rather than on individual punishment.

  • Rules should not require behavior contrary to human nature or infringe on basic individual rights.

A company's written safety policy may address such issues as executive and driver management's commitment to and involvement in the safety program, driver and supervisor responsibilities, a mandatory seat belt policy, personal vehicle use and cellular phone use.

Other components include management procedures that can help minimize a company's risk when putting a driver behind the wheel of a truck. Setting driver selection and qualification criteria is significant to how an insurance company underwrites an auto policy. Companies should review driving records and accident histories, check references, and verify drivers' licenses. Under a company's driver selection and qualification policy, companies also may outline specific progressive penalties for violations. For example, after two chargeable accidents, a company may establish that a driver loses vehicle/company driving privileges. Or after one DUI, a driver loses vehicle/company driving privileges.

Other safety policies that should be addressed in a well-rounded safety program include accident reporting and investigation procedures, vehicle selection standards, vehicle inspection and maintenance procedures, and driver training programs.

Before signing a financially hefty insurance policy, waste haulers might want to consider signing off on a few of these safety measures.