The Hidden Fleet

Don't overlook the insurance needs of your ancillary vehicles

When it comes to fleet safety and reducing costly accidents, most waste companies have focused their efforts almost exclusively on their large collection vehicles. Strong fleet safety programs for collection operations certainly are important and have paid dividends for most waste companies. Yet ancillary vehicles often are overlooked in the implementation of these safety programs.

The ancillary fleet includes all of the vehicles owned or operated by a waste company besides the actual collection vehicles. Generally, this consists of vehicles that do not require a commercial driver's license (CDL), such as service units; supervisor vehicles; pickup trucks used to service missed stops or to run errands; company cars for officers, sales people and managers; and even personal autos owned by employees if those vehicles are used for company business. Accidents involving the ancillary fleet have led to significant liability claims against many waste companies, and fleet safety programs need to address this exposure.

It would be unthinkable for a waste company to allow someone to drive one of its collection vehicles without first having that person go through a substantial screening process: motor vehicle record (MVR) check, verification of prior experience, road test, physical, drug test, etc. All too often, little thought is put into who will be driving the smaller non-CDL vehicles. A waste company needs to have a policy in place that states that only authorized personnel are allowed to drive a company vehicle — ANY company vehicle. Part of this authorization process should at least include an annual MVR check and a basic road test (as one may be shocked by the driving habits of some non-CDL drivers).

Special attention should be given to situations where ancillary vehicles are assigned to a specific company officer or employee. In many cases, these individuals are allowed to take company vehicles home with them each night. A waste company needs a policy that addresses such issues as personal use of company vehicles, whether family members are allowed to drive company vehicles, security of the vehicles and how preventative maintenance will be handled.

Even when the waste company does not actually own the vehicle, an exposure may exist. Sales people may use their personal auto for sales calls. A clerical employee may drive his or her vehicle to the bank or post office for the company. A supervisor doing road observations may use his own auto. All are examples of what is known as a non-owned exposure. While in most cases the employee's personal auto policy would be primary should an accident occur, the limits of these policies might be insufficient to cover the cost of a serious accident. It is prudent for a waste company to verify that all employees who use their personal auto for company business have a policy that is in-force and has sufficient liability limits. These employees also should be subject to MVR checks. Finally, a risk manager or insurance agent should be consulted to confirm that the company's insurance policy includes non-owned coverage.

Bruce Hooker
R.F. Mattei & Associates of CA Insurance Services
Sacramento, Calif.