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Developing a Fleet Accident Response Plan

developing a fleet accident response plan

Accidents cost you money. Worse yet, they get people hurt or even killed. Your best bet is to work to prevent accidents from happening. But what’s your plan when (not if) one of your drivers is involved in a collision?

If you want to reduce your cost of loss, liability, and inefficiencies, you need to invest in fleet accident management and develop an accident response plan.

Your Risk of Collisions

On average, even a minor accident costs you $16,000. If someone is injured, the average cost for a company is $70,000. These numbers come straight from OSHA.

Accidents are so costly because, at the very least, they lead to lost time, late freight, vehicle downtime, and vehicle repair costs. At their worst, they lead to court dates, workers’ comp, and massive fines.

You may be thinking that you’ve never had a major accident. The numbers say it’s only a matter of time. Consider the 2019 accident statistics from the NHTSA:

  • There were an estimated 6,756,000 police-reported traffic crashes. 
  • 36,096 people were killed and an estimated 2,740,000 people were injured in traffic collisions.
  • On average, one person was killed every 15 minutes and an estimated 5 people were injured every minute in traffic crashes in 2019.

When you look at it that way, it’s just a matter of time until one of your drivers’ numbers are called and they cause a collision. You need to have an accident response plan in place.

What Is an Accident Response Plan?

An accident response plan is a crucial part of fleet accident management. An accident response plan is a procedure with set steps in place taken after an accident by your drivers, your dispatchers, your managers, and possibly executives.

The accident response plan details who in your company is responsible for what duties, when those actions must take place, and when those actions must be completed by.

Your drivers, managers, and any other involved personnel must have the company’s accident response plan memorized.

Download The Ultimate Guide to Professional Driver Training

What Is Involved in an Accident Response Plan?

An accident response plan is a coordinated effort between your driver, dispatch, and managers. Each person has a different set of priorities and responsibilities.

Important note: the strategies listed below are best practices. We are not lawyers and do not offer legal advice. We are experts in transportation safety and implementing safety procedures.

Driver

The driver’s responsibilities are the most straightforward. However, they’re also the most important. Your driver must take these actions in this specific order:

  1. Ensure that the scene is safe for their own sake and the sake of others (they should immediately move themselves to the safest place possible; oftentimes, this means staying in the vehicle)
  2. Contact dispatch then call 9-1-1 in any accident involving other people (if the accident poses imminent threat or harm to someone, your drivers should call 9-1-1 before calling dispatch)
  3. Avoid talking to the other people involved
  4. Record all the facts related to the incident
  5. Cooperate with police but refuse to talk about what caused the accident and never admit fault
  6. Wait for someone from the company to arrive

Dispatch

When dispatch is called about an accident, they must act quickly. Their job is to alert the appropriate personnel as soon as possible.

While talking to the driver, the dispatcher must learn:

  • Where the accident took place
  • The nature of the accident
  • If anyone is hurt or who else was involved
  • If the driver has already called 9-1-1

In addition, the dispatcher should maintain a professional tone, remind the driver to stay calm, and ensure that the driver is in a safe place.

Once they are off the phone with the driver, your dispatcher should contact their manager immediately.

Manager

Once the dispatcher alerts the manager, he or she must act just as quickly. The manager has several responsibilities:

  • Getting the correct company personnel out to the scene of the accident
  • Alerting other necessary members of the company (if it is a serious accident, it should be escalated to a higher level)
  • Calling the involved driver to ensure that police have been notified and that the driver is safe
  • Arranging transportation for the driver from the scene/medical attention for the driver if necessary
  • Arranging transportation of the vehicle from the scene/towing of the vehicle if necessary

Whoever is a responder to the scene is charged with helping to ensure the scene is safe, cooperating with law enforcement, calling their insurance company at the scene, and ensuring the company does not increase its liability by admitting fault.

Putting Your Plan into Place

First and foremost, you need to have your accident response plan written down, step-by-step, with explicit instructions on who is involved. Then, you need to make sure everyone knows it. There are a few strategies you should use to accomplish this.

  • New hire training - your drivers, dispatchers, and managers must be educated on how to handle accidents and emergency situations. Invest in custom training or make your own training to educate your new employees.
  • In-person training - host in-person training with all involved employees on how to respond to an emergency. Don’t leave it up to chance, and don’t count on your employees to read a manual and act accordingly. Ensure they know and can take the corrective actions.
  • Yearly refresher training - at least once per year, host refresher training on accident response plans. Do so with drivers, dispatchers, managers, and anyone else involved.
  • Have the plan easily accessible - have your accident response plan available for employees to review. Give everyone a digital copy for their own reference if possible.

Prevent Accidents in The First Place

You must invest in fleet accident management and an accident response plan. Having the correct processes in place can reduce your liability, cost of loss, and potentially save lives. However, the best accident response plan is one that prevents accidents in the first place.

If you invest in online defensive driving training and instructor and driver certification, you can reduce your accidents and cost of loss by 20% or more. Your reductions of loss will more than makeup for your investment.

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