For many employers, the single most hazardous task performed by their employees is related to driving. Driver responsibilities can range from “over the road” pick-up and delivery to employee “errands”.
Beyond the incalculable personal price, vehicle crashes cost employers $60 billion annually in medical care, legal expenses, property damage and lost productivity.
The average crash costs an employer $16,500. When injury is involved, that rises to $74,000 and typically exceeds $500,000 when there is a fatality.
There are actually many things that employers can and should do to protect the safety of their employees and the general public. The following is a Checklist for Avoiding Driving-Related Liability. Because these checklist items will normally be executed by several different departments or entities, there needs to be close coordination, communication and follow-up to avoid critical information not being acted upon in a timely manner. The risks and hazards are all too real and clearly present every business day.
The following checklist will help you get started immediately.
Checklist for Avoiding Driving-Related Liability
Workers who drive as part of their employment—even if all they do is drive to and from off-site meetings during the workday—can expose you to significant liability if they're involved in an accident. To avoid liability, you need to identify drivers who could put you at risk and keep them off the road for work purposes. Here's how:
Do a background check. Workers whose job description includes any driving should have a "clean" driving record. Decide in advance what qualifies as clean. For example, some employers don't concern themselves with parking tickets or a single speeding ticket.
Order a physical. For some drivers, this is required by law; for others, it may simply be prudent. Make sure workers' job descriptions include a description of any driving the worker may be required to do while on duty—this is important because mandatory medical examinations that aren't job-related may violate antidiscrimination laws. And remember that you cannot require applicants to undergo medical exams before you offer them employment.
Check for drugs. If you don't include drug testing in your pre-employment procedures, you're leaving yourself wide open for many potential problems—including the possibility that a worker will cause an accident while under the influence.
Check the worker's job history. Especially if the worker was a driver for a previous employer, request the worker's driving record and look for red flags like accidents or poor safety performance.
Train your drivers. Anyone who drives as part of his or her job should complete a driver safety course, at a minimum. Drivers who carry additional responsibility—for example, driving commercial vehicles or carrying passengers—should complete additional training and hold all licenses required by law. Drivers can also complete courses covering special circumstances (such as winter driving) or vehicles.
Create a written driver safety policy. A written policy can make your expectations clear to drivers and help shield you from liability. The policy should cover common behaviors that contribute to motor vehicle accidents, such as following too closely, changing lanes abruptly or excessively, speeding, rolling through stops at intersections, and racing to beat red lights.
The policy should also address behaviors that contribute to distracted driving, such as cell phone use; the taking of prescription and over-the-counter medications; drowsy driving and other "legal" but dangerous situations; vehicle inspections; seat belt use; and strict compliance with motor vehicle laws.
Enforce safety. Be clear from the very beginning about the consequences of breaking the rules in your driver safety policy—and consistently enforce them.