Driver Letter: Driver Accident Preventability

Date: 02/06/2012

Dear Professional Driver,

The accident frequency for J & S Transport, Co., Inc. has been trending in the wrong direction the past few months. Thankfully, those accidents have been relatively minor in nature but still expose our Company’s liability to filed property damage and medical claims. When I review accidents to classify them as preventable or non-preventable, I use guidelines created by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), National Safety Council (NSC), American Trucking Association (ATA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

In my career, I have been questioned many times to why I classified accidents as “Preventable” when our vehicle was clearly not at fault and common sense dictates otherwise. Let me share the NSC’s definition of a “PREVENTABLE” Accident” with you:

“An accident in which the driver failed to do everything reasonable to prevent it”

They continue to define Defensive Driving as means “to prevent accidents in spite of the incorrect actions of others, and in spite of adverse conditions”.

Most professional drivers howl at these definitions, telling me I’m off my rocker. The usual mistake most drivers and managers make is in assigning “fault” rather than “preventability”. A driver can be technically free from fault, yet may have been able to avoid the accident. Therefore, when the driver is involved in an accident, I am looking to determine if the professional driver used all his defensive driving skills to have reasonably prevented that accident. He may not be at fault however could he have prevented the accident from occurring in the first place?

In reality, the accidents that normally get classified as “Non-Preventable” are when our vehicle is properly parked, stopped at a controlled traffic device or involved in an accident when moved at the direction of law enforcement officials.

You must also take into account the other party involved in the accident; Insurance Companies. Their main goal is to mitigate and minimize the impact to their perspective policy holders. It is well known that Insurance Companies will take the less costly path to mitigate and close the claim. The accident being classified as Preventable or Non-Preventable has really no bearing on how those Insurance Companies mitigate the claim. Many times they will settle with claimants just to make them go away, regardless of preventability or fault.

The goal here is not to have an accident in the first place. You and I know they are going to happen and why they’re called accidents. The job of the professional driver is to use all his defensive driving skills to reasonably prevent occurrence. Remember, the Commercial Motor Vehicle driver, especially one transporting hazardous material, is held at a higher standard than a regular motor vehicle operator.

Next time we have a discussion on the preventability of an accident, please remember the explanation I have provided in this letter. I may still be off my rocker but hopefully you will understand the reasoning behind my decision.

Be Safe!!