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Plan Ahead And Survive The Crash With A Loss Reporting Plan

As safe as today's trucking industry can be, there is no denying the fact that collisions happen -and there are costs to be paid every time the sound of squealing tires is followed by the sickening "c...

As safe as today’s trucking industry can be, there is no denying the fact that collisions happen -and there are costs to be paid every time the sound of squealing tires is followed by the sickening “crunch” of metal meeting metal.

They are the costs that can also spiral out of control if fleets and drivers fail to take the proper steps in the moments after a crash occurs.

The evidence that will be vital during an investigation will begin to disappear as soon as debris is cleared from the scene, while seemingly minor fluid spills can transform into costly environmental disasters if spill kits are not immediately put to use. A few innocent comments can even lead to legal problems in the months that follow.

Fleets that incorporate formal Loss Reporting Plans -primarily a series of checklists, clearly defined roles, and updated contact numbers -can ensure that none of the important steps are overlooked.

It all begins with those who are directly involved in a collision. If a proper plan and the related training is in place, drivers will understand exactly how they are expected to: pull to the side of the highway (if that is possible); use signals, reflectors and flares to warn surrounding motorists; and determine that everyone on the scene is safe.

And they will know exactly where to place their first call, thanks to the contact list that has already been programmed into their cell phone.

The individual assigned the responsibility of accepting these calls -namely, the loss reporting contact -will need to offer a calm voice that can guide these drivers through the remaining steps, while notifying authorities and insurance representatives who can offer support.

After all, a crash will be a stressful event for everyone involved, and required resources can be as diverse as environmental clean-up teams and collision investigators.

Then it is a matter of protecting all the related evidence before debris is cleared from the road and memories begin to fade.

With the help of a Loss Reporting Plan’s formal Accident Reporting Kit, drivers will be more likely to gather vital information such as the identities of witnesses, the names of involved drivers, road conditions and a simple sketch of the accident scene. Many fleets have also equipped drivers with cameras to supplement this information, although that should be supported with some training on the images to take. The first images should include the appearance of any damage to the vehicles, a wider look at the surrounding area, skid marks, debris, and anything such as an obscured sign that may have contributed to the collision. A shot of any spill control efforts will also help to prove that drivers took every reasonable step to control a situation.

As important as these images are, drivers also need to be careful to avoid taking pictures of injured people, which could later be put on display in the middle of a crowded courtroom.

Meanwhile, the formal training that accompanies a Loss Reporting Plan will also help drivers to avoid the instinct of discussing the situation with anyone other than the police, their fleet or a representative from their insurer. And they will know that once their insurer has a lawyer at the site, any shared information will be protected under the rules of lawyer/client privilege.

Back in the fleet offices, a formal checklist will ensure that the designated loss reporting contact follows steps of their own, ensuring that they understand exactly where the driver is (are they heading to a particular hospital?) and where the damaged equipment might be towed.

Fleet and equipment experts assigned by the insurance company will certainly want to review any of the equipment alongside any Department of Transportation personnel. The approach is very similar to the plans that are in place in the event of a fire, and the entire process can be tested just like a fire drill.

These tests begin by identifying the call as a mock event, and calling each designated contact with details about the crash. Everyone who is involved should then be recording the information that they are responsible to collect, and following every step as if it was a real situation.

The idea is to save valuable time in the event the plan ever needs to be put into action, and to ensure that everyone knows their respective roles so valuable time and information is preserved.

The Boy Scouts were right; it does pay to be prepared.

-This month’s experts are Dave Roth and Jon Medel. Dave is the Ontario regional manager of safety and training services and Jon is Markel’s corporate claims manager, operational support. Send your questions, feedback and comments about this column to

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Truck News is Canada's leading trucking newspaper - news and information for trucking companies, owner/operators, truck drivers and logistics professionals working in the Canadian trucking industry.
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