The Risk Hiding in Safety Manuals – 5 Ways to Help Protect Your Trucking Company
posted by TrueNorth Transportation on Friday, March 17, 2023
Think about your safety manual, or the safety section of your driver handbook. Now, picture yourself in a deposition, answering every safety instruction in detail.
Will you have to defend a poor policy or admit your driver failed to follow it?
The landscape of litigation is changing, and trial attorneys are scrutinizing safety manuals during discovery. Their findings can be an avenue to pursue punitive damages, which go beyond regular compensatory damages and are meant to punish the defendant for things like gross negligence, intent to harm or egregious misconduct.
Here’s what this might look like during a trial:
- You instruct drivers that maintenance is only permitted at a certain chain location. Your driver notices an issue with his brakes and continues driving in the direction of one of the locations. On the way, he gets into a rear end collision, injuring multiple people. What happens next, since the driver followed your instructions?
- Your safety manual instructs drivers to pull over during inclement weather. During a period of light rain, your driver runs a red light and causes a serious accident. Is light rain inclement weather?
In this environment, trucking companies may want to review their safety manuals with a fine-tooth comb. If something is stated in a safety manual, it's expected to be followed.
Of course, always abide by state and federal regulations and laws regarding safety manuals. And use this check list to start your review:
Safety Manual Review Check List:
✅ Send it to your general counsel for review.
✅ Get rid of absolute words, like always, never or guaranteed.
✅ Cut down on unnecessary terminology. For example, the term “professional driver” deserves a second look – just saying “driver” will likely convey the same thing without the designation of professional.
✅ Try to avoid listing “how-tos,” as that establishes a standard.
✅ Do an annual audit. Safety manuals often get addition after addition, without a review of what’s no longer relevant, leading to massive safety manuals.
Every motor carrier is unique, and every safety manual is different - there is no one-size-fits-all approach. While it’s impossible to eliminate all risk, taking proactive approaches like this can help minimize it.
Protect & Maximize with TrueNorth
TrueNorth can provide valuable feedback on safety manuals and other insight on how motor carriers can manage risk in the ever-changing transportation industry. Reach out to start the conversation.