Crashes happen to the safest drivers and fleets, despite their best efforts, and the related costs can be an unwelcome surprise. Beyond the price of repairs, fleets need to deal with delayed freight, ...
Crashes happen to the safest drivers and fleets, despite their best efforts, and the related costs can be an unwelcome surprise. Beyond the price of repairs, fleets need to deal with delayed freight, lost revenue and a damaged reputation. Drivers can lose income, and the situation may even cause shippers to place their trust (and future freight) in the hands of a competitor.
The information collected at the scene of the crash can play a key role in keeping such costs under control.
Consider a scenario where a driver is at the wheel of an owner/operator’s truck, travelling down a multilane highway before being sideswiped by a merging delivery van. There are no injuries in the Friday night crash -although, there is obvious damage to both vehicles – so the drivers exchange some details and continue their trips.
A weekend passes before the owner/operator contacts his fleet’s safety manager, who then spends several hours tracking down the driver. And while the driver eventually offers his version of events, some important details are lacking.
He recorded the name of the person driving the delivery van, but not the licence number; the name of the courier company, but not the contact information; the number of the insurance policy, but not the name of the insurance company. And he didn’t bother to take any pictures at the scene because he didn’t think that it was important.
The lack of information makes it impossible to identify the courier company or the driver of the delivery van. Local insurance brokers cannot offer the fleet any details about the courier company’s insurance policy because of privacy legislation.
In the end, the owner/operator has no way to recover his deductible and expects the driver to share the cost.
Now imagine the costs that would emerge if someone reported an injury several weeks after the fact.
Be prepared at the scene
Drivers, dispatchers and safety personnel all need to have a clear understanding of the steps to be followed at the scene of a crash. The collision reporting kits provided by most insurers can offer a guide for the driver to ensure all bases are covered.
In general, the drivers involved in any crash should:
• Protect the accident scene by setting up warning devices such as flares or reflective triangles;
• Check for injuries, making injured people as comfortable as possible, but not moving anyone unless they are in danger;
• Call police and emergency personnel as required and then the fleet, or have other people at the scene make these calls;
• Contact your insurance company -if your dispatcher does not do this -they can help and advise you at the scene. Markel provides 24/7 claim reporting service to its customers;
• Check Bills of Lading to determine whether dangerous goods are involved. Calls may need to be placed to emergency spills response personnel that specialize in the safe handling of such materials;
• Seek out witnesses. If anyone refuses to be identified, it will be important to note the number on their licence plate or the address of the building where they were observed. Information from a witness can make a huge difference when dealing with traffic charges or insurance claims;
• Respond to questions from the police but do not admit fault to anyone. Questions from non-emergency people -including the media – should always be referred to the fleet office;
• Take pictures of the accident scene from different angles, showing roads that approach the scene, traffic signs and the position of any involved vehicles. Images should also show skid marks or gouges in the pavement, as well as any other damage that might help to show what happened.(Pictures should never be taken of anyone who was involved in the accident.) Once pictures have been taken, drivers should immediately submit the film, disposable camera or the digital camera’s memory card directly to their fleet or insurer.
• Drivers should ensure that the accident reporting kits, checklists and any related emergency numbers are close at hand prior to any trip. Crashes are stressful enough for a driver without needing to determine what steps should be followed at the scene.
Still, the training does not begin and end with drivers. Company personnel who are responsible for answering a driver’s call should also know what information to collect and what steps to follow in the event of a crash, whether serious or minor in nature.
Fleets, meanwhile, need to establish clear procedures for situations involving injuries, disabled vehicles or any spills involving fuel or dangerous good -spelling out when police and other emergency personnel should be called, ensuring the insurance company is called immediately and bringing specialized expertise to the scene as quickly as possible.
It is all about being prepared and making the best of a bad scene. •
-Kevin Dutchak joined Markel as a safety and training services advisor, covering the Atlantic Provinces, in 2006. Previously, he spent more than 20 years as a driver, dispatcher, and safety manager.
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