Is Your Fleet Prepared to Avoid a Nuclear Verdict?

Est. 2 min read

Headline: “Fleet Shuts Down”

Country Wide RV Transport (CWRV), an exclusive hauler for RV retail chain Camping World, closed its doors permanently at the end of 2019 following a nuclear verdict.

How did the country’s second-largest RV and motor-home transportation provider find itself in this predicament? CWRV recently lost a civil lawsuit of $26.6 million in a Denver, CO court. The suit involved a driver who fell asleep behind the wheel, which then resulted in the death of a husband and wife in a nearby GMC Yukon.

The driver previously pleaded guilty in 2018 on two counts of reckless driving resulting in injury and a suspended sentence. Although this driver was an independent contractor, the jury ruled CWRV liable for the accident.

Juries tend to have inflated perceptions of reasonable awards and plaintiff attorneys are spending significant resources to target fleets with the hopes of high settlements. For fleets like CWRV, the impact of these settlements can mean the end.

How Your Fleet Can Avoid The Same Fate

Over the past five years, even some of the safest fleets in the industry fall victim to direct claims for negligent hiring, training, supervision, or retention. For the fleets wondering how they can avoid the same fate as CWRV, here are ways to be proactive and reduce liability:

Implement programs and technology to maintain evidence that your fleet meets or exceeds industry standards and safety practices.

Have a dedicated safety team member that monitors processes or programs:

#1 Manage fleet documents such as a handbook, drivers’ logs, and DQ files.

#2 Identify and monitor data collected by your various technologies.

  • Escalation Process — Determine which events warrant a first warning, second warning, final warning, suspension, termination, etc.
      • Make sure that this process is administered consistently across your entire fleet and documented.
      • For future accidents, you can provide evidence of actions taken for past violations, reducing your likelihood of fault.
  • The destruction of evidence appears nefarious to a jury who has no attachment to a case (Example: If a fleet gets rid of their logs, it’s a defensible case from the accident standpoint. However, it now cannot be proven that the driver was within the hours of service without the logs).
  • Tip: Use a Driver Management Platform to log, track, and store all of the various incidents gathered from each device. By employing this type of platform, fleets can better manage their escalation processes and maintain the data necessary in court.

#3 Avoid Spoliation — withholding or destroying evidence relevant to a legal proceeding.

CWRV’s story isn’t unique. Trucking shutdowns have spiked this year, and understanding your fleet’s data is vital from both a safety and financial standpoint.

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