4-minute read

With both distracted driving and multimillion-dollar “nuclear” jury verdicts on the rise, no one wants to find themselves on the road without adequate commercial auto liability coverage.

How bad have things gotten?

The American Transportation Research Institute last year found that from 2010 to 2018, the size of verdict awards against trucking fleets grew 51.7 percent annually. Nuclear verdicts are those that surpass $10 million.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration figures on traffic fatalities for 2021 were pretty grim, too. The NHTSA data estimated 42,915 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes last year, a 10.5 percent increase from the 38,824 fatalities in 2020. Distracted driving played a big role in that growth.

Shoring up fleet safety, whether your operation runs 10 school buses or 1,000 18-wheelers, is paramount in light of "nuclear" verdicts.

Not surprisingly, insurance companies that have had to cover the costs of these explosive verdicts – not to mention rising medical costs and deteriorating roads – have responded by raising premiums.

Making sure your business has adequate coverage, of course, always makes sense. But so does shoring up fleet safety programs, whether your operation runs 10 school buses or 1,000 18-wheelers. Here, then, are a few tips to help keep your drivers safe and your premiums under control.

  • Put your drivers through a yard test. The yard test allows you to gauge an applicant's ability to park in tight areas including parallel parking, maneuvering through tightly spaced barricades, and backing up in restricted space such as a simulated loading area.
  • Hold regular safety trainings. Driver safety trainings shouldn’t only happen when drivers are first hired. Make sure to hold regular driver trainings to reinforce your safety policies, including guidelines for seat belt use, distracted driving, and corrective actions.
  • Make sure work schedules are designed with driver fatigue in mind. One in five fatal collisions may involve a drowsy driver, so educate employees on driver fatigue and encourage them to take a break if they start feeling sleepy behind the wheel.
  • Ensure you hire qualified drivers by using motor vehicle records (MVRs) to vet drivers' experience and moving violations. Disqualify drivers with an unacceptable driving record. Review MVRs regularly to ensure that drivers maintain good driving records. Define the number and types of violations a driver can have before they lose their driving privileges.
  • Consider technology solutions, such as telematics, where appropriate to strengthen and supplement other loss control measures. Also, dash cams — particularly dual-facing dash cams with artificial intelligence built in — are proven to reduce risky driving behavior. How? With two camera lenses (one that faces the road ahead and one that faces inside the cab), dual-facing AI dash cams can detect safety-related incidents and auto-upload incident footage to the cloud for driver training or coaching.
  • Switch to electronic driver vehicle inspection reports. If you’re still using paper DVIRs, there’s often a delay between when the driver completes the paperwork and when it reaches your back-office. Switching to electronic DVIRs makes it possible to respond to fleet safety issues in real time, allowing you to immediately take action to ensure your vehicles are properly maintained and safe to operate on the road.
  • Examine your Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration BASIC scores to identify gaps in your fleet safety and management programs, if applicable.
  • Finally, determine whether you should make structural changes to your commercial auto policies by having a conversation with your insurance broker.

The Mahoney Group is one of the largest independent commercial insurance and employee benefits brokerages in the U.S. For more information, contact us online or call 877-440-3304.


This article is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel or an insurance professional for appropriate advice.

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