Trucking verdicts that award plaintiffs more than $1 million—’nuclear’ verdicts—are becoming increasingly common. Make sure to do your safety due diligence to protect yourself in the case of litigation.
The trucking industry is plagued with nuclear verdicts—typically defined as awards of more than $1 million. Jury awards of that magnitude against fleets of all sizes are on the rise. Still, there are some steps fleets can take to try to protect themselves from being victimized by this practice and show juries that safety is the fleet’s number one priority.
  1. Commitment from top management: Safety needs to be a core value in your fleet, with top management setting the example of how important safety is to the organization. This extends beyond just having safe trucks. Include safety in the shop and in the office. If a fleet is taken to court following an accident, demonstrating that safety is not just talked about but has solid actions behind it can help keep jury awards to reasonable levels.
  2. Invest in safety technology:Fortunately, fleets can add a plethora of safety technology to their vehicles that will assist drivers in operating safely. If you have not done so already, consider things like dashcams with forward- and inward-facing capabilities, lane departure warning systems, collision mitigation systems, blind spot warnings, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, etc. These are outward demonstrations that you take safety seriously.
  3. Monitor driver behavior:It is important to remember that the available safety technologies are driver assistance technologies and do not replace the role of the driver in safely operating the vehicle. Use data from your telematics to monitor things like speeding, hard braking, and hard starts. With the data in hand, you can coach drivers on how to operate more safely.
  4. Safety policies and procedures:Review and change your existing safety policies and procedures as needed. Be clear about the penalties for failing to wear a seatbelt or using a cell phone when behind the wheel. Set stiff penalties and enforce them unilaterally.
  5. Reward safe driving:Make sure you have a program that rewards drivers for safe driving milestones. When honoring drivers who reach these milestones, do so publicly so that other drivers can see the value you place on safety.
  6. Ongoing commitment to safety training: Schedule regular safe driving refresher courses for all your drivers—even the most senior drivers. It’s never one and done when it comes to safety. Establish a safety committee that regularly reviews and updates safety practices for drivers and others within your organization.

Demonstrating your fleet’s commitment to safety should go a long way in keeping you from being victimized by a nuclear verdict if one of your trucks is involved in an accident.   Click here to continue reading