Learn how company driving policies help business owners protect their companies, their employees and everyone else on the road.
Putting in place best-practice safety measures is something that every business owner should give considerable attention to. While regularly reviewing and adapting needed changes to a business's safety policies might not be at the top of the to-do list for many companies, failure to do so could result in serious injury and threaten a company's future. This happens to be particularly true if your business requires its employees to regularly get behind the wheel.
According to the United States Department of Labor, "motor vehicle crashes cost employers $60 billion a year in medical care, legal expenses, property damage, and lost productivity." Employee motor vehicle accidents can have a trickle-down effect as well and drive up the cost of everything from employee benefits such as workers' compensation to increases in company overhead cost.
Law firms see hundreds of whiplash cases a year from employees who were involved in on-the-job auto accidents. Often times one or both parties miss work and injury settlements can climb into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Consider this fact a sobering wakeup call: When an employee has an on-the-job auto accident that results in injury, the cost to their employer is an average of $74,000.
In this article we'll look at several areas business owners should examine when it comes to safe employee driving.
- Implementing proper vehicle safety training
- The risks of company cars vs. employee vehicles
- What to do if an accident occurs
Driving home the importance of safe employee driving
In order for business owners to protect their companies, their vehicles and their employees, communication of proper safety measures should be a must from day one. For a strong safe driving program to be in place, a business owner will need to gather empirical data on the driving conditions their employees will be undertaking. For example, employees with a Pacific Northwest trucking outfit will likely have different driving conditions than employees making sales calls for a pharmaceutical company in Tampa.
By evaluating interviews, reports, and surveys employers should determine how much focus is needed for such areas as:
- Rural vs city driving
- Operating large vehicles
- Difficult weather conditions
- Large vehicle operation
Once in place, employers must then shift their focus on hiring the right employees and properly training them. Background checks on a potential employee's driving record should be done and employers should ensure the candidate fully understands the role driving will play in the job. A bad hire can be incredibly costly for a business, especially when safety plays a factor.
Every job is going to have different training requirements and a program should be put in place that correlates with the job duties your employee drivers will be undertaking. Will they need to acquire a new license or some form of certification for their driving duties? Will vehicle operation training be involved?
It's your job as an employer to ensure that employees have the proper tools to be the safest drivers possible and know what is expected of them when they're behind the wheel. Business owners should regularly check that employees are adhering to safe driving practices and be ready to hand down consequences when driving guidelines are ignored. On the flip side, rewarding safe driving practices will help to create a workplace culture where safety is valued.
What's at stake with company cars vs. employee vehicles?
It's worth repeating that company driving policies should always be put into practice, whether an employee is driving their own vehicle for work or a company vehicle. That said, if, at all possible, it's better that employees use company vehicles rather than their own.
Yes, dropping the cash on just one vehicle – let alone a fleet – can be incredibly pricey for a business. In terms of safety, though, it's almost always worth it.
For starters, this allows you, the business owner, to install safety features like GPS tracking and monitoring that alert you when unsafe driving behaviors like speeding or braking too hard occur. Second, it puts the issue of vehicle maintenance in the hands of the business owner. Following OSHA vehicle maintenance checks can go a long way towards keeping your employees and other drivers safe on the road.
You can certainly require that employees carry personal insurance on their vehicle, but that's all a business owner can ask of an employee's vehicle. If your employee is using their own car with underinflated tires, worn-out brakes, or other mechanical issues there's really nothing you can do about it other than suggest they take their car into the shop.
Finally, a business with employees operating their own vehicles for work is putting itself at the risk of vicarious liability. In insurance terms, this means that even if an employee is properly insured, if they're driving their own car for something like a sales call and get in an accident, the company can be at risk for liability.
While company-owned cars can be costly to maintain and have their own liability issues – especially if employees have 24/7 access to them – they simply offer a better safety advantage.
What to do if an accident occurs?
To be more accurate, it's more a question of not what to do if an accident occurs but when. If driving is a significant part of your business' operations, a motor vehicle accident is inevitable.
Regardless of whether an accident occurred in a company vehicle or the employee's own vehicle, business owners should show concern for the employee involved in the accident. All parties involved should obviously seek medical attention if needed and a police report of the accident should be filed. It's your obligation as the employer to notify the insurance company and this should be done as soon as possible. Delayed reporting with the insurance company will only create that much more of a headache and could be incredibly costly.
Traffic accidents involving employees are always going to be a negative aspect of running a business where significant driving is concerned. Like so many things, if you look for a silver lining you can find one, and these accidents can be incredibly valuable in future safety training exercises.
While some motor vehicle accidents are due to unforeseen circumstances, if human error was a factor and an employee disregarded company driving policy – then enforcing consequences will be necessary.
Whether you're running a small business where your employees are regularly driving from one side of town to the other or a company with coast-to-coast operations, safe driving is of paramount importance. Employers should be aware of who is driving on their behalf and have established guidelines for operating any company and non-company vehicles while on the job. It's all about creating the right company culture where safety is a priority from the get-go.
Having tried-and-true employee handbooks and written training materials in place is certainly not a bad thing, however, in today's modern world it makes sense to utilize cutting edge safety technology as well. While a 2019 report did find that the advancement of such technologies as lane-assistance has made drivers riskier, we also have better technology to help with safe driving than ever before.
Everything from blind-spot warning systems to drowsy driving alerts can help keep employees safer while on the road. By utilizing technology and stringent company driving policies, business owners can better protect their companies, their employees, and everyone else on the road.