Employee Drivers: a Work-related Risk

What’s driving up claims?

Do your employees, contractors and/or volunteers drive company or personal vehicles for business purposes?

Accidents can occur to anyone while driving to a sales meeting, job site, conference, business lunch or the post office.

Your drivers, their passengers and others on the road are at risk of injury. Potential for an injury of this type is considered a work-related risk.

Research shows that traffic accidents are among the leading causes of high severity Workers’ Compensation injuries.

Approximately 42 percent of workplace fatalities occurring in 2012 were transportation-related, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s the largest portion of reported work-related fatalities.

Even more alarming is that highway incidents are the most frequently occurring work-related events ending in fatalities, as shown in the graphic. The most frequently diagnosed car crash injuries involve the neck, which are often considered severe and have a high level of attorney involvement.

Transportation fatalities

What’s behind the numbers?

One issue leading to such statistics is professionals whose job responsibilities require them to be on the road during work hours. Examples are salespeople, site inspectors, and home health-care workers.

These people have expertise in their chosen career path, but they aren’t professional drivers and don’t have the tactical or defensive driver training that fleet drivers receive.

Falling asleep at the wheel is another factor. Lack of sleep, driving long distances and driving after a heavy meal are only some things that can cause drowsiness while on the road. Cocktails served at lunch and dinner meetings can, of course, also cause drivers to be drowsy… or even impaired.

Obviously, the use of mobile phones is the cause of many accidents. Drivers are distracted by phone conversations, texting, updating calendars, GPS directions and more. Even if your employee isn’t the one distracted, they can be the victim of another driver who is.

What’s the answer?

Most employees are required to undergo job training before starting their actual duties. Any employee whose duties include driving should receive on-the-job training in defensive driving. This aspect of professional training is almost always overlooked.

A mandatory driver safety program can go a long way in preventing catastrophic driving-related workers’ compensation claims. A program of this type should include training and policies regarding defensive driving techniques, types of vehicles employees may use, seatbelt safety, eliminating distractions, and driving in adverse weather conditions.

Many fleet safety experts advise employers to invest in telematic technology to monitor whether employees are putting into practice the skills learned in training. This technology was once only used by companies with large commercial fleets, but is now being used to track employee driving habits.

Business Auto Policy and Workers’ Compensation

The liability and physical damage risks that can’t be prevented by risk management controls must be insured through a Business Auto policy. Minimum suggested limits are $1 million Auto Liability including owned, non-owned and hired autos.  Employee driver and passenger injuries including medical bills and payments for lost wages, should be covered through Workers’ Compensation.

Source: Bill Kenealy, “Driving on Company Business,” Business Insurance, 7 July, 2014.

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