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The Smartest Tool in the Shed
By Duane Craig
January 7, 2019
You face some pretty serious risks as a subcontractor if your employees are driving company vehicles. These fleet risks extend beyond just the care and maintenance of the vehicles––they are particularly troublesome for subcontractors with service operations. You can only rely on insurance policies to back you up to the “limit of liability.” And on top of pain and suffering, there are other costs like lost time, disability, and property damage arising from vehicle fleet accidents.
Here are some tactics to lower fleet risks and save yourself the headache.
For any company with any sized fleet, there are big concerns about safety. Topping the list of pain points is drivers not following safety policies, especially when using cell phones. Fleet managers report great difficulties in establishing and enforcing mobile device-use policies. Distracted driving arising from using mobile devices is a growing contributor to accidents, and it is fueling higher insurance rates.
Experts like those at SambaSafety, a driver risk management firm, say that just paying lip service to vehicle safety and having beautifully written policies is of little help. And those who rely on restrictions and punishments won’t fare well either. Companies need to focus on care and compassion, making their vehicle safety discussions go beyond statistics to emphasize that lives are at stake. As with all safety efforts, it has to start at the top where leaders at all levels demonstrate their buy-in and commitment. And, actions have to match expectations. If you assign more travel than an employee can realistically handle, then you’ve just undermined your safety messages.
Another good tactic is to involve company vehicle drivers in discussions about policies. You can gain some new insights that will improve the success of the policies, while also helping employees feel empowered so they buy-in to the rules. Be sure to include all people who operate vehicles for company purposes, including those who use their own vehicles.
Heavy head, lots of yawning, blurred vision, and lane wandering are all signs of a potentially sleepy driver. Not only are drowsy drivers in danger of falling asleep, but their judgement is impaired and their reflexes are slowed. Be alert for employees who don’t seem rested and display tired behavior. On long drives, people should take breaks every two hours and be careful of medications that cause drowsiness.
When commercial vehicles involved in accidents lead to jury trials, the juries often assume the company has insurance, so they award high amounts. In 2012, auto accident claim fraud alone added $7.7 billion in excess payments for injuries and 21% of bodily injury claims had the appearance of fraud or buildup.
Savvy business owners will tell you that vehicles with company signs are popular targets for insurance fraud. Criminals know these vehicles often carry high insurance limits, making the payouts especially rewarding. But, they often need a little help from the people who operate the vehicles in carrying out their schemes. They watch for people who are looking down, visibly interacting with mobile devices, talking on the phone, eating and drinking while driving, and checking how they look in visor mirrors. The perpetrators are usually so highly skilled that they can quickly go spot an easy mark and improvise an accident.
The accident scenarios often go like this:
Awareness can really help employees see potential trouble in enough time to avoid accidents. When you have discussions and training on what to look out for, and what to do in case of accidents perpetrated by criminals, your employees will be more aware and will respond appropriately.
Subcontractors today have new options in the quest for fleet safety. For example, they can equip vehicles with telematics technology so that they can see operating characteristics like how fast the vehicle goes and the amount of severe braking. Electronic logging devices can help companies make their service operations comply with regulations, while also helping them become more efficient as they improve driver safety.
Manufacturers continue to include new features that improve fleet safety like backup cameras and automatic braking triggered by sensors. These advances are in step with what companies need to make fleet operations as safe as possible.
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