Does Your Company Run Work Vehicles? Here’s What You Need to Know About Safety and Liability

If your organization has a fleet of company cars, trucks, or other vehicles, it is important to do everything you can to ensure that workers and others are as safe as possible. This will help to prevent you from one day being faced with an expensive lawsuit, or simply having to lose time or money because of vehicles or workers out of action after an accident.

While you may be busy and have a wide variety of tasks always seeming more urgent, you don’t want to keep pushing vehicle safety and responsibility down the list. Read on for the lowdown on what you need to know about protecting your business today.

Business Liability

If one of your employees gets into an accident while driving a company vehicle, and a victim of the accident sues (this could be the employee themselves or another party), your business could potentially be found liable in a few different ways. An attorney may, for instance, say that you and/or your venture are liable because of the:

  • Respondeat Superior argument (if your employee was at least partially at fault in the accident and they were doing work for the business when it happened)
  • Negligent hiring or retention argument (if it is found that you erred in the hiring of an employee involved in an accident, or didn’t fire them when you should have)
  • Negligent lending of a vehicle argument (if it is found that you erred in allowing your employee to drive the vehicle at the time)
  • Negligent maintenance of a vehicle argument (the vehicle was not safe to drive because it had not been properly looked after)

There can be other, different arguments used in these types of lawsuits too, but these are the four most commonly used.

Carefully Decide Who Is Allowed to Drive Company Vehicles

To protect yourself from these types of problems, start by being selective about which of your employees are given, or allowed to drive (even as a one-off) a company vehicle. You should conduct reference checks of staff members to find out if they have a criminal record or history of accidents, driving under the influence, speeding, and the like; and always terminate workers straight away if they need to be let go, rather than keeping them on when you know you shouldn’t.

You must ensure that you maintain adequate insurance, too, and put specific policies in place within your business about how and when company vehicles are to be used by staff members. Make it clear what types of things are not condoned (such as checking phones when driving or otherwise being distracted, speeding, driving when under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or driving aggressively or dangerously), and make sure you enforce these policies too, so that employees know they must abide by them.

If you can see that a worker has done any drinking, is falling asleep, is drugged, has an expired license, is under the influence of medication that could affect their ability to drive safely, or is otherwise unfit to get behind the wheel, make sure you do them from driving. It is also a good idea to arrange driver training programs for your team members.

Ensure Vehicles Are Properly Maintained and Repaired

Another key step to protect your business is to ensure that all company vehicles are properly maintained and repaired. You should book vehicles in for regular services and general checks by mechanics, and keep records of these inspections and any work carried out.

Tires should always have plenty of air in them, and enough tread; oil needs to be changed regularly; cracks in windshields should be repaired immediately; and any faults or other issues should be fixed straight away. Also make sure that you keep an eye out for safety recalls being issued on any of the vehicles in your fleet, so that potential defects get addressed as soon as possible.

Adhere to Regulations Regarding Driver Hours

Lastly, if your business model involves company drivers transporting goods, or driving other people, you must also always adhere to regulations about how long drivers can be on the road for, and the types of breaks they need to have for sleep and rest in between and during shifts. The rules typically vary according to the size and type of the vehicle being used, so investigate to get the details for your particular situation.

You must never schedule or force drivers to be on the roads for too long, or in a way that goes against regulations; plus it is wise to create a culture whereby workers know that they will never be punished for driving safely. Sadly many people are injured or killed in crashes every year which are caused because drivers were speeding, fell asleep, or lost concentration after being on the road for too long a stretch.

If you don’t follow the rules, you could find that one day a company driver, or an outside victim of an accident, hires a lawyer to represent them in court. A specialist in the field, such as a truck accident attorney in San Antonio, could then quite easily claim that you are liable, and you could end up having to pay out a big lump sum as a result.