At its essence, a driver safety policy is your way of communicating and enforcing driver responsibilities to those employed at your company. It outlines your expectations around who’s qualified to drive, what tactics will be used to ensure they remain eligible to drive and disciplinary actions for those who violate the policy.
In this article we address the following questions:
- Does every company need a driver safety policy?
- How does a well-crafted driver safety policy benefit your company?
- Why is it critical to continuously enforce your policy?
- What are the key components of an effective driver safety policy?
Does Every Company Need a Driver Safety Policy?
Although not a regulatory requirement, if an organization has a fleet of company vehicles or employees who drive their own vehicles in the scope of employment, a driver safety policy should be implemented. This is also the case for small and medium-sized companies that do not have commercial motor vehicles in use.
Depending on who’s driving for your company, you may need more than one policy, or different clauses added to your existing policy for different types of drivers. For example:
- Employee Versus Non-Employee: companies with non-employee drivers such as independent contractors or employees of another entity providing loaned or contracted services, should consider drafting a policy specific to these drivers.
- Regulated Motor Carriers: it’s highly recommended that regulated motor carriers work with an experienced transportation professional to ensure their policy covers the necessary regulatory requirements of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR).
It’s important to note there is no mitigation of exposure by avoiding the adoption of a policy, so it’s critical that EVERY company with drivers implement one.
How Does a Driver Safety Policy Benefit Your Company?
The Foundation of Your Safety Culture
As mentioned above, a driver safety policy sets forth company policies surrounding driver safety, driver responsibilities and the consequences of engaging in dangerous driving behavior. Driver safety policies are the first step in establishing a comprehensive driver safety program, helping companies create a culture of safety and proactively manage driver risk through the desired safety and compliance outcomes. When properly implemented, a well-crafted policy will reduce risk, cost and liabilities.
A Cost-Saving Strategy
When your company actively communicates and enforces driver responsibilities via your safety policy, you will inevitably experience a lower incidence of preventable violations, crashes and claims. As a result, companies should expect to see cost reductions on everything from insurance premiums to litigation.
An Added Layer of Legal Protection
While the ultimate goal of a safety policy is to prevent crashes and claims, it’s also a critical tool in establishing a defensible position for your company when incidents do occur. Even if your drivers are proactively following the rules set forth in your policy, some crashes are unavoidable. The ability to show you are actively enforcing a comprehensive safety policy can help provide necessary legal protection when incidents occur.
Why Is it Critical to Continuously Enforce Your Policy?
Not actively enforcing your driver safety policy can create unnecessary exposure in the context of litigation resulting from a crash. In cases involving regulated motor carriers, a plaintiff’s attorney, as well as the DOT, will assess whether a company has adequate safety management controls in place. If a formal policy exists but nothing was done to enforce it, it would be challenging for the company to prove they did indeed have adequate and consistent safety management controls in place.
The presence of a safety policy does NOT create a heightened duty of care in the context of negligence. However, the mention of driver safety policies either not present or not effectively implemented by companies can be found in jury verdicts and case law. Here are some examples:
- A Texas jury awarded $750,000.00 in punitive damages, noting that the defendant “had violated the defendant’s safety policies governing the operation of such vehicles, and that he failed to exercise due care for the safety of fellow motorists.” West v. USA Truck Inc.; Defendant Driver, JVR No. 455602
- Another Texas jury awarded $705,000.00 to plaintiffs, noting the defendants’ “failing to monitor their drivers’ activities; failing to enforce company driving and safety policies; […] negligently failing to train its drivers; negligently failing to supervise its drivers; and failing to monitor and stop dangerous driving activities.” Davidson v. Gotta Go Express Trailways, 2013 WL 5372307
- Juries in states such as California, Florida and Georgia have also considered driver safety policies in awarding damages.
What Are the Key Components of an Effective Driver Safety Policy?
Whether you already have an established policy, or you’re drafting one for the first time, effective driver safety policies must contain these eight critical components:
To dive deeper into each of these components, download our helpful checklist, 8 Must-Haves of an Effective Driver Safety Policy.