By Nick Hillesheim, TVC Pro-Driver Chief Sales Officer
Nuclear verdicts are on the rise — and they’re just as scary as they sound.
A “nuclear verdict” is the term the insurance industry uses to refer to jury awards that surpass $10 million. These settlements are detrimental to trucking companies in several ways:
- Many insurance companies will not cover the full cost of the settlement. A carrier could be left with a $15 million bill they can’t pay and be forced to shut their doors.
- Nuclear verdicts contribute to the rising cost of insurance rates for trucking companies, putting them at risk of going bankrupt.
- Some large operators are cutting excess insurance to save money, putting them at even greater risk should one of their drivers be involved in an accident.
You might think, “a nuclear verdict will never happen to my fleet” — but never say never. According to data analyzed by the National Safety Council, fatal crashes involving large trucks were up 43% from 2010 to 2019. Jury awards for crashes are also ballooning; when considering verdicts of more than $1 million, the average size increased nearly 1,000% (from $2.3 million to $22.3 million) between 2010 and 2018.
Don’t let a nuclear verdict put your fleet out of business. Here are some ways you can protect your drivers and safeguard your company’s bottom line:
- Champion a “Safety First” Culture.
Implementing appropriate procedures to maximize driver safety is the first step in reducing accidents and avoiding litigation. Fleet managers can proactively perform vehicle maintenance, establish ongoing safety training and even implement safe driver recognition programs to encourage compliance. At TVC Pro-Driver, we offer a safety incentive program in which we’ll pay your fleet $50 per driver after six months of concurrent safety records and paid member subscriptions. Our program has been proven to help fleets keep CSA scores — and overall costs — low.
- Document Everything.
Train your team on maintaining evidence your fleet meets or exceeds industry standards and safety practices. For example, keeping an accurate hours-of-service log can help prove you’re not pushing drivers too far and causing driver fatigue. Leverage technology, like modern ELD systems, to manage the flow of information and help enforce hours-of-service guidelines.
- Protect Your Fleet’s Reputation.
Juries are likely to side against a fleet with a poor reputation — i.e., one that has poor driver records and performance, unhappy employees and little to no driver perks. People talk, and it takes just one viral Facebook post to bankrupt a company. It’s a tough market to attract and retain top drivers, but our partners can do so through TVC Pro-Driver’s healthcare discounts, Driver Rewards Program, family/spousal coverage and other fleet perks.
Stop a nuclear verdict before it becomes a possibility. If you are interested in learning more about how TVC Pro-Driver can protect your fleet’s bottom line and boost driver safety, email me at Sales@prodriver.com.