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The Many Benefits of Continuous Truck Driver Monitoring

Consider all the recent advances occurring in the trucking and transportation sectors. From efficiency increases to higher levels of safety, there is change happening. And it is likely because of this change that some trucking company leadership teams might not think MVR monitoring is a priority. Yet this argument could not be further from the truth.

Certainly, fleet managers are constantly looking for ways to increase operational efficiency, save money, increase safety, and improve margins. What many do not realize is that continuous truck driver monitoring can take care of each of these concerns in one fell swoop. The fact is this, reducing the costs and liabilities associated with risky or bad truck drivers touches margins, safety, efficiency – all of it.

Fleet managers who currently use a continuous truck driver monitoring system know that the myths are just that. Facts show that employing the practice benefits the company in multiple ways. And when the technology and support is available to all, there is no reason not to implement it.

Removing Risky Truck Drivers

Removing or reducing the number of risky drivers on the road is the highest value a fleet can gain from its safety program; not only because it protects lives but goes directly to protecting a company’s bottom line. Direct costs include personal injury, property damage, workers compensation, and no-fault payouts. Indirect costs including service disruption, lost productivity, claims administration, legal fees, overtime, and training costs. And legal fees are very high these days. Liabilities cripple some trucking companies.

At first glance, continuous license monitoring may appear to be an additional expense, but this proactive approach yields substantial cost savings in the long run. Across the industry, fleets report an average crash rate of about 20% each year. Just one even minor crash can cost employers $5,800 on average.

For a fleet of 1,000 drivers, that’s 200 crashes, and $1.16 million in employer cost per year if there are no injuries or fatalities. When crashes become more severe causing injuries or fatalities, the costs to employers will grow exponentially. Forty years of continuous license monitoring for a 1,000-driver fleet, on average, costs less for a company than just one fatal accident.

While some fleets assume that annual MVR checks will save time by batch processing driver MVR reports, this approach is more time consuming and cost prohibitive. Annual MVR checks use valuable resources by manually going through all MVRs for all drivers each year. If each MVR review takes roughly 5 minutes per driver it amounts to an exorbitant number of staff hours.

For example, for a fleet consisting of 1,000 drivers and using the 5-minute review average, that’s 83 hours or over two full work weeks of labor costs to review MVRs. Is that really enough to get a good idea of expected performance?

Make Consistent Pulls

Continuous license monitoring, on the other hand, sends notifications of violations or status changes as-they-occur and automatically pulls an MVR for that driver; allowing the fleet manager to focus on the 20% of drivers that are a potential risk in real time. This also lowers the potential risk of liability. Continuous license monitoring can satisfy annual MVR check requirements by eliminating the costs associated with pulling and reviewing the MVRs of the 80% of drivers that are operating safely.

If the 1,000-driver fleet example uses continuous license monitoring, they have the potential to reduce the time spent reviewing MVRs to just under 17 hours, spread throughout the year.

Once a year MVR pulls results in risky drivers going unnoticed for a longer period. For instance, if a driver gets a DWI the day after the MVR is pulled, he or she has a “grace period” of 364 days before a serious and potentially costly source of liability is discovered.

Driver behavior plays a critical role in 88% of fatal and injury crashes. Commercial truck drivers with violation convictions in the past year are 43% more likely to be involved in crashes during the year following a conviction than drivers with no convictions. Fleets have a duty to know what is in their truck driver’s history prior to putting them on the road in a company vehicle. There is more than money at stake; lives are at stake.

Yet, on the flipside, perceived “deep pockets” and willingness to settle quickly make fleets a target for litigation. Regardless of the severity of the crash, potential harmful publicity can impact a company’s bottom line and its brand reputation. Even in situations where the truck driver is not at fault, litigation can put a company out of business.

Costs Continue to Rise

The size of legal rewards against fleets is soaring; a 2019 verdict award was the highest in history against a fleet company at $280 million. The average verdict award (not including settlements) has climbed to $17.5 million; some cases involve a wrongful death charge, but most cases are brought with a charge of negligence by the fleet company.

Pulling a driver’s motor vehicle record prior to hiring and then once a year after that initial pull is the bare minimum of compliance. Many companies do not realize they have an important duty of care to do all they can to ensure they put only safe drivers on the roads; if they fail to do so they could face costly lawsuits as a result of an accident.

Negligence, or Negligent Entrustment, occurs when a dangerous article – in this case a vehicle – is entrusted to somebody who is reckless, inexperienced, or incompetent. If the entrusted individual has an accident, the injured party has the right to bring a case against the individual’s employer. A heavy-duty commercial motor vehicle is certainly a dangerous article if mishandled by the operator.

In order to find fault with the employer, all the plaintiff needs to show is that the organization entrusted the vehicle to the driver, that the truck driver was reckless, incompetent or unlicensed, and that the organization knew – or should have known – that the driver was reckless, incompetent or unlicensed. The key here is in the section talking about what the company “should have known.”

From there, the plaintiff simply needs to prove that the driver was negligent while operating the vehicle and that the negligence resulted in damages. A 2016 wrongful death and negligence verdict against a fleet for $35 million demonstrates how a safety policy that is deemed “insufficient” can weaken a fleet defendant’s case.

The driver for a food refrigeration company rear-ended a stopped vehicle, killing the driver of that vehicle, and injuring the driver of another truck. The fleet driver was found to be driving under the influence of numerous narcotic drugs. The company had a drug screening program but had not identified the driver as a potential risk.

Prior to the accident, the driver had an identified history of speeding tickets, a red flag that a continuous license monitoring program would have caught. In addition to the $22.7 million wrongful death verdict, the company was also found liable for the injuries of the driver in the other vehicle that was involved in the crash. That truck driver received a verdict of $12.3 million.

The key issue for company leaders is the responsibility component. Leaders must stay current on each driver’s record. What they don’t know in this scenario can absolutely hurt them and cost the organization millions of dollars.

An Organization’s Responsibility

Companies have an obligation to ensure their drivers are properly licensed and they must monitor their drivers’ safety and behavior. Immediate corrective action for any violation that a driver accrues is crucial. Once-a-year MVR pulls are not enough to ensure risky drivers are complying. One of the best precautions that a company can take to prepare for potentially defending themselves in a liability lawsuit is continuous license monitoring.

Continuous license monitoring is a critical safety component for fleet managers to effectively monitor drivers’ risk profiles, ensure compliance, guarantee safety, reduce liability, and scale down business losses. It is the responsibility of the trucking company to ensure that it is happening as scheduled, otherwise they will be open to potential litigation and problems in the future.

Fortunately, there are many companies, vendors, and systems out there that trucking companies can use to fulfill this solution. Whether it be through a web-based portal or a software as a service, companies exist to link up to the federal database. Not using them could be a type of negligence in and of itself.

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