There are few occupations more potentially dangerous than being a professional driver. Most people think of driving as a relatively relaxed job. You get to sit, listen to music, and navigate around your familiar town day after day. But never forget that vehicles are dangerous and roads are filled with hazards. Every distraction, pedestrian, and reckless other drivers on the road will increase the chance that your driving teams might be involved in a terrifying collision. Every day, drivers are run off the road, run into, or roll into danger while distracted by something inside or outside the vehicle.
In fact, distracted driving is currently the cause of approximately 25% of all current vehicle crashes and comes in fifth place at 6% for causing vehicular fatalities. A driver looking away from the road for a few seconds to adjust the AC or check their text messages can expose themselves to an unbelievable amount of danger. However, with the fast-paced and mobile nature of business today, it can be all too tempting, even necessary, for your drivers to look at their phones throughout their daily route. They may be expected to watch for messages, send responses, and coordinate with other drivers in order to complete the day's work but this significantly increases the risk of distraction while on the road.
As a responsible employer, you should be aware of both the workplace hazard of distracted driving, the danger to your drivers, and the costs distracted driving can bring to your company.
Driver Care and Compensation
The first concern any business should have when an accident occurs is the welfare of your employees. Your driver and any passengers inside your company vehicle will all need immediate medical attention, and there is a high chance that anyone injured will be out of work for at least a few days at best while they recover from their injuries. After the dust settles, worker's compensation claims will need to be filed and agreements settled with your driver and any additional employees who were injured in the crash.
Worker's compensation is an inevitable part of any work-related disaster, and a car crash is undeniably one of the most violent and dangerous experiences anyone can be exposed to on the job. Fortunately, you have worker's comp insurance to cover the majority of the expenses. But, of course, that leads to other costs.
Vehicle Damage and Repairs
The second thing you need to worry about after a distracted driving crash in a company vehicle is the vehicle itself. If you own your business fleet, you may need to invest in replacement parts and extensive bodywork to get the vehicles back up to spec with the rest of your fleet, and this can go into many thousands of dollars in repairs. However, if you work with a leasing company, you could also be facing exorbitant charges for damaging the vehicle and causing your lease provider to perform repairs.
If the vehicle has been totaled, this incurs an entirely new set of costs, including administrative fees to take the vehicle off your fleet roster. Then you'll need to invest in replacing the vehicle with something new, no doubt an expense your fleet was not planning for this year.
Almost as a side-note to losing the vehicle is damage to what was inside. If you were shipping cargo, had expensive equipment loaded into a work truck, or simply had an ample kit of supplies that got pancaked in the crash, all or most of that is gone now. Many businesses get so caught up in the urgency and potential drama of employee and vehicle damage that they overlook the cost of lost cargo until inventory accounting comes to call. Whether you'll need to restock your repaired or replaced vehicle with all-new gear or soak the loss of an entire shipment, cargo losses can be significant.
Higher Insurance Premiums
The third company cost brought on by distracted driving accidents may not appear until the next time you see your insurance bills. Businesses pay insurance for a lot of different things, including specifically worker's compensation and auto insurance. When one of your employees is involved in a crash, your insurer may have to pay out for both situations. Especially since your driver is at fault for mobile device use behind the wheel.
When insurance providers have to pay out, they raise your premiums and they raise them a lot. Expect a skyrocketing insurance premium for both worker's compensation and fleet auto coverage over the next several years after an accident. Consumer insurance penalties may roll over after three years, but business insurance penalties don't necessarily. Between your larger coverage assets and the insurance provider's discretion, your insurance payments can go through the roof.
Driver Time Off
Worker's compensation isn't the only way your company loses money when a driver and field team gets into an accident on the road. Anyone who requires extensive medical attention or time spent at home recovering is incurring another more subtle cost: time they're not on the job. While workers are recovering, the rest of your team will be spread thin and inevitably, productivity will drop. The cost of the work your out-of-commission team members would be doing can start to rack up, especially if they are out for weeks and months at a time.
Then there's the issue of filling in the gaps. While you can't replace your injured employees entirely, you may need to invest in sourcing and hiring temporary drivers and team members or soak the cost of hiring additional permanent positions.
However, in many cases, the internal expenses are nothing compared to what could happen if someone else decides to take your company to civil court. Liability lawsuits filed by others who were injured or experienced property damage as a result of the accident can create viable claims for thousands to millions of dollars in compensation costs. If someone claims successfully that your driver was the cause of their injuries, pain, suffering, or losses then your entire company could be held liable in court.
Liability lawsuits are among the most costly expense any business can face which is why most companies make sure to have insurance policies in place. However, nothing opens you up faster to losing a civil court case if your driver was provably texting or interacting with a work-related mobile device behind the wheel. If the messages they were checking were from your HQ, then there's a very strong case for your company's responsibility in the distracted driving accident.
Finally, never forget the harm that just a little bad press can do. Businesses go through setbacks, accidents, and liability suits all the time without getting a drop of press but if some news outlet decides to run with your story, your company could be bearing the brunt of a single distracted driving accident for years. No business wants a reputation for careless drivers and, most likely, your drivers don't deserve that kind of reputation for a single terrible incident. But if customers get the idea that you're not handling logistics responsibly, you could lose more than recovery expenses. You could start to lose revenue from sales and leads as well.
Distracted driving is a dangerous hazard, but one that many employers accidentally encourage. Do everything you can to get your drivers off their mobile devices while vehicles are moving. Even if you need to coordinate and send messages, the only way to avoid distracted driving is to limit phone usage any time your driver needs to be focused on the road.