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Nuclear Verdicts: Are You Running Naked With Scissors?


What would happen to your company if you were handed a $1 billion verdict in a court case? It sounds far-fetched, but today it’s a reality. A Florida court just broke the nuclear verdict record with a $900 million punitive damage against a trucking company involved in a fatal collision. So, are you running naked with scissors? Or are you taking the necessary precautions to avoid this happening to your company?

You’ve Never Been at Greater Risk - Why?

Trucking companies face a bigger risk for a nuclear verdict today than ever before. That’s due to two reasons.

First, verdict amounts are increasing. According to a study published by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), from 2010-2018, the average size of jury verdicts in trials rose from $2.3 million to $22.2 million. That’s almost a 1,000 percent increase.

Second, trucking companies are cutting corners and putting themselves at more risk. It’s no secret that it’s harder than ever to find drivers. Consider the following statistic from The ATA regarding the lack of qualified drivers:

  • In 2019, the trucking industry was short over 60,000 drivers, which was up nearly 20% from 2017’s figure of 50,700.

With the shortage of drivers, companies are desperate. They’re shortening their hiring cycle, reducing their minimum qualifications, and putting people in the driver's seat as soon as possible.

However, by cutting corners in selection, hiring, and training, you increase your risk for that billion-dollar nuclear verdict we mentioned. That goes for companies with owner-operators as well.

While an owner-operator might not be an “employee,” you could still get sued if they have an accident while driving for you.

All this to say, despite the hiring struggles, cutting corners isn’t the answer. You still need to be focused on:

  • Proper selection and hiring
  • Maintaining compliance
  • Driver safety training

There are easy, cost-effective solutions you can implement to reduce your liability and save your company money.

Selection & Hiring Strategies to Reduce Nuclear Verdict Risk

Your risk for hiring a dud grows as you become more desperate for drivers. So, if you want to avoid a multi-million dollar lawsuit, do your due diligence. Don’t cut corners on selection and hiring.

Your first goal should be to increase your pool of qualified candidates. You want to attract, recruit, and hire best-fit drivers. When you implement strategies for hiring all-stars, you:

  • Cut down on turnover
  • Decrease your risk for collisions
  • Decrease your risk for lawsuits and nuclear verdicts

All of this saves you time, money, and headaches.

But where to begin? There are three steps we recommend you take.

  1. Invest in an applicant tracking system. This is table-stakes. An ATS is the backbone of an effective recruiting process. Without it, you’re wasting time, money, and resources on an inefficient recruiting pipeline. We like our ATS, but there are many options.
  2. Invest in targeted ads. You can get hyper-targeted ads right in front of best-fit drivers. This strategy isn’t just for the big-dogs anymore. Check out our affordable solution for hyper-targeted ads and grow your pool of qualified potential hires.
  3. Develop your brand. You have to stand out from the crowd if you want to attract high-quality drivers. More likely than not, your ad is basically wallpaper. It looks just like every trucking hiring ad out there and says the exact same thing. How are you supposed to attract drivers doing that? Check out our free purple cow videos to learn how to get more responses on your ads.

How to Stay Compliant in a Hiring Frenzy

Your focus is snatching up the qualified drivers before your competition does. It’s easy for the paperwork to be a distant thought. The problem is, when we forget about compliance, we open ourselves up to the possibility of a nuclear verdict.

What would happen if someone driving for you (employee or owner-operator) caused an accident and wasn’t even supposed to be on the road? You’d pay in more ways than one.

More likely than not, you run compliant. You’d pass the next surprise DOT audit no problem. But what does it take to get there? Blood, sweat, and tears. And then there’s the constant stress that something slips through the cracks.

It doesn’t need to be this way. Invest in a compliance tracking system to make these problems a thing of the past for your companies.

Companies that move their compliance paperwork to a compliance tracking system benefit from:

  • Automated notifications when a driver is in danger of going out of compliance
  • No more scavenger hunts - all DQ files are stored in one place
  • Integration with their applicant tracking system - get the info you need from new drivers quicker
  • Zero failed audits and zero punitive damage

Going completely paperless seems like a big step. Trust us, it’s not. We’ve helped dozens of companies go from manila folders to a compliance tracking system and they never look back. See for yourself at this link.

Download FREE DQ File Checklist

Driver Safety Training: An Ounce of Prevention

What causes a nuclear verdict? Recruiting poor fit drivers? A mistake in compliance?

Those both play huge factors, but at the end of the day, a nuclear verdict is caused by a driver having an accident.

The old saying absolutely applies here: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Invest in driver safety training to prevent accidents, reduce your cost of loss, and avoid hefty punitive damages. 

This is especially important today as you struggle to hire/find best-fit drivers. You need to make sure the drivers you put in your seat are prepared to be safe, professional drivers - whether they are employees or owner-operators.

There are easy-to-use and effective driver training programs out there. You should consider investing in:

Remember: accidents are expensive. Even a minor one will cost you tens of thousands of dollars. Investing in professional safety training can save you up to 20% of accidents. You do the math. Your return on investment is enormous.

Don’t Let Your Driver Problem Be a Nuclear Problem

You have a massive driver problem on your hands: you struggle to attract quality drivers, you compete with dozens of other companies to hire them, and folks walk out your door faster than you can bring them in.

If you cut corners on hiring, compliance, and training, you’re turning this large problem into an even bigger one.

Don’t let your driver problem turn into a nuclear problem. You’re not helpless. Take the steps we laid out in this article to solve your driver problem and leave your competition in the dust.

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