October 8, 2020
Accidents are every fleet’s nightmare. Accidents cost lives, money, and trust, none of which are easily replaced. A worst case scenario is one known as a “nuclear verdict”, a lawsuit that costs $10 million or more and often proves to be a death sentence for the company in question.
Our friends at Idelic recently hosted a virtual conference with one particular session focused on preventing the nuclear verdict. These mega-fines often result from out-of-compliance documentation or practices - anything from missing med cards to incomplete testing processes.
These mistakes can be due primarily either to negligence or, more often, safety personnel not having the time or resources to fully perform these duties on a daily basis. For this reason, companies tend to get slapped with unnecessary fines and leave themselves exposed to lawsuits.
But more than that, Idelic discussed how attorneys in lawsuits have utilized strategies to appeal to jurors’ emotions to heighten the sense of danger to the community and the outrage against transportation companies who have broken a law. In a recent presentation at the Ohio Trucking Association annual safety conference, Marc Blubaugh from Benesch Law in Cleveland gave several specific examples of how attorneys tap into the old reptilian brain of jurors using leading, “common sense” statements (such as “safety rules exist to keep us safe” which leads to the thought that rulebreakers want to hurt you, or don’t care if they do) to trigger anxiety and outrage that lead to favorable plaintiff outcomes and maximum fines.
How strong is your documentation? Can you prove during a deposition that your compliance management is in order?
In short, nuclear verdicts occur when repeated offenses to safety can be proven in court. While we know that compliance does equal safety in the real world, in court habitual compliance negligence is the fastest way to a nuclear verdict. If it’s not documented, it didn’t happen. How strong is your documentation? Can you prove during a deposition that your compliance management is in order? There are a million easy ways to receive fines in transportation, but fortunately this reality can be mitigated, and even prevented, quite easily with technology.
Our clients are seeing the many advantages presented by digital driver files and training programs. A company that uses a digital compliance tracking system cuts down on the time and effort required to maintain each driver’s file. Records can be uploaded and emailed instead of scanned or printed out all the time. The computer does the checking for what’s missing or expired. Even better, when combined with pre-hire materials and training, a driver has a full file in one place that is always accessible and doesn't take up half of a filing cabinet drawer. This allows safety teams more control over their day-to-day tasks and frees up time to focus on the drivers themselves.
Once you have paperwork under control, you can begin enforcing safety culture across the whole company. You can extend driver training and let drivers know that you’re serious about LLLC-centered safe driving. You can enact driver mentoring programs to properly onboard newcomers and reward and recognize the safest drivers for their efforts. If you stick with these practices, they become habits. If everyone in the company practices those habits, you have a culture. You can begin that effort with the decision to put safety first, and making sure that every driver on the road is fully qualified and ready to go. That begins at the top.
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