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Reducing Vehicle Accidents

By: Matt Schiefferly
Vice President Safety Services


The largest liability facing the moving and storage industry is motor vehicle accidents. When larger commercial vehicles are involved in accidents the bodily injury and damage to personal property is 3 to 4 times more severe than accidents that involve private passenger vehicles. A company that takes the time to select the proper driver and provide the required training will reduce motor vehicle accidents.

The most important step a company can take in reducing accidents is in employee selection. Motor vehicle records must be reviewed by all drivers at least annually, drivers should be tested with both written and practical driving tests frequently. To ensure compliance with state and federal laws, drivers need to complete a physical and drug and alcohol testing on a regular basis. The DOT requirement is, testing needs to take place on all drivers pre-employment and post accident for drug and alcohol. 50% of drivers further need to be tested for drugs, and 10% need to be tested for alcohol annually on a random basis. Drivers can also be tested if there is reasonable suspicion of drug or alcohol use. The DOT also requires that each employee subject to drug and alcohol testing be provided 1 hour of instruction on the program, as well as what substances will be tested for.

Once the driver is hired training should be on going and occur between the driver and his helper. Nearly 40% of all accidents occur in parking lots or while backing a vehicle. These are the easiest accidents to control and are almost always preventable. Drivers and helpers should work on hand signals that each are familiar with, the helpers should also be taught where to stand so they can be seen by the driver and where the helper can see any hazards and direct traffic when needed. A helper should always be used in parking lots, driveways, or where obstructions hide on coming traffic. Both the helper and driver should be aware of signal requirements while the truck is parked. Signal triangles are required to be placed at 100 feet in both directions and 10 feet from the rear of the vehicle, or up to 500 feet when the vehicle is obstructed by a curve (see enclosed pictures).

While on the road the driver needs to be alert and aware of changing traffic conditions and weather. Drivers also need to know both height and width of their vehicles. Tree branches, building overhangs, and undercrossings cause hundreds of thousands of dollars in trailer and truck damage every year. Helpers should always be used in these instances. If you hear the bang or scrape then it is too late! If the driver is involved in an accident proper training of accident investigation procedures are critical (See Accident Investigation safety topic).

Companies should consider sending drivers for additional training to one of the National Safety Council (NSC) Defensive Driving Courses. They are excellent and drivers can come back and share what they have learned with the entire driving force.

If you have any questions or need help with your safety and loss control programs please contact Matt Schiefferly @ Paul Hanson Insurance Services (800) 852-1968 or e-mail Matts@Paulhanson.com. Visit our web page for other information vital to the moving and storage industry at www.paulhanson.com.