Driver Selection and Brand Protection Go Hand in Hand
Good hiring decisions are critical to ensuring you have the best drivers operating your vehicles. But how can you be confident that you are selecting the best potential drivers? What are the implications to your business and your brand if the drivers and vehicles you put on the road don’t operate safely?
In order to better understand the risk, let’s explore an accident that actually occurred, the circumstances surrounding it and the resulting liability to the company:
A commercial driver was operating a dump truck and was making a left-hand turn into the plant when he was struck by an oncoming vehicle. The oncoming vehicle was partially crushed and the driver was pinned by the truck’s wheels. Conditions at the time of the accident were clear and the roads were dry. The truck driver admits that just before the accident he never made a complete stop in his turn lane. He rolled in second gear at approximately 15 MPH into the left turn. He said he could see the oncoming vehicle but he estimated the vehicle was a safe distance away.
An accident reconstructionist was hired and the expert opined that the oncoming vehicle was traveling at or below the speed limit. He also testified that the driver of that vehicle braked and swerved to the right; however, they had no option but to hit the dump truck due to the guardrail on the roadside. Had they swerved left they would have struck oncoming vehicles. The dump truck driver had 2 previous speeding violations and a reckless driving conviction. The jury awarded $1.5 million to the driver of the oncoming vehicle for injuries suffered in the accident.
You may have never experienced this type of accident or ANY accidents in your organization, but the reality is that this occurs every day across the US and it can be prevented with proper planning. So what can you do?
In this scenario, a lot of time could be spent analyzing several different factors to come up with recommendations on how this accident could have been prevented. But in reality, the answer is simple. The driver should never have been hired. Think about it. In today’s environment, for a potential driver to be convicted of crimes such as reckless driving and speeding, it’s generally only the tip of the iceberg. The driver is, in most cases, driving erratically more times than they are caught.
Another way to think about this issue is that your organization is ensuring the public’s safety with the drivers you put behind the wheel of your company vehicles. You have a responsibility, both morally and legally, to protect the public and this extends beyond the time of hire – it continues throughout the career of that employee.
Great organizations employ a rigorous driver selection process that includes the following:

  1. All drivers must complete an application form and receive a personal interview. These checks and balances can uncover many inconsistencies.
  2. References must be verified to ensure that the information the driver provided is correct.
  3. A thorough driver’s license review must be completed.
  4. Motor Vehicle Record (MVR) must be cleared. A clean MVR does not guarantee a great driver, but it is a good indicator. Establish protocol ahead of time as to what is and isn’t accepted and apply it consistently across the board regardless of the driver or situation. Further, regularly revisit the driving records of your employees – every 6 months is a good baseline, but monthly or quarterly is preferred. It also doesn’t hurt to spot check that your drivers have their driver’s license when they are driving. Simply ask to see it – if they don’t have it that should be a red flag.
  5. Perform road tests with your prospective drivers, pairing them with experienced operators who have been entrusted by the organization to provide the appropriate assessment to management on the driver’s skills. Organizations should also administer written tests if required.
  6. Create an assessment tool that removes subjectivity when choosing drivers for hire. Remember to apply the tool consistently across the board to reduce further liability.
  7. In order for this process to be effective, it should include drivers that are using personal vehicles on company business. If it isn’t, your organization faces the same potential liability especially involving incidents that are severe or deemed egregious.

Other procedures to be considered:

  • It should go without saying but great organizations also have a substance abuse program in place that aligns with applicable laws.
  • A term that is growing in prominence is “Negligent Entrustment.” Negligent Entrustment cases arise when a company carelessly permits someone to drive a company vehicle and their incompetence results in serious injury or death to someone else. Protocols should be established for personal use of company vehicles to ensure vehicles are where they are intended to be at specific times.

In closing, enlisting the seven steps above can go a long way in protecting your fleet and organization. Proper driver selection is one of the most important elements to a safe driving workforce. Failing to do your due diligence in this area can put your organization at risk for severe punitive damages, as we expect this trend to be a factor in judgments where organizations fail to take the proper care. Choose your drivers as you would choose your executives – individuals that protect your company’s interests and have the skill set and integrity to carry out the task at hand.

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