In a perfect world, no mobile workforce would ever see an accident. But the reality is different.
No fleet is ever assured of being 100% incident-free. Even under your vigilant oversight, your drivers might cause accidents any hour of the day or night, leaving you to face a mountain of admin work, increased risk to staff and possibly customers, and increased expenses.
It pays to understand who is responsible when fleet drivers cause crashes, and how to reduce those incidents through driver training and other key accident management practices. As a result, you’ll simplify your admin work, and keep your fleet up and running more often and your drivers safer.
Here's what you need to know in event one of your drivers crashes a company vehicle.
Understand who is liable
When a fleet driver is involved in an accident, you should first understand who is liable for the costs associated with the damage.
If a third party motorist caused the crash rather than your employee, that person is responsible for paying the damages, normally through their insurance provider.
Your fleet driver is typically liable if they caused the crash through negligent behaviour, such as sending text messages or otherwise distracting themselves from watching the road.
Your company — and you personally, as the fleet manager — may be liable if a fleet vehicle malfunction is to blame. It’s your responsibility under the Health and Safety at Work Act (HSWA) to ensure fleet vehicles are safe ‘workplaces’ for your employees, meaning vehicles must be maintained and fit-for-purpose.
It’s important to note that, whichever party is liable for vehicle damages, personal injuries are another matter entirely. With fleet incidents, all injuries are covered by ACC.
When the company is responsible
When a fleet driver causes an accident, your company might be directly responsible for their actions. This is called vicarious liability. Your company's insurance covers the property damage costs while indemnifying the employee.
This usually applies when employees cause collisions within the ‘normal scope of employment’. For example, if one of your drivers goes out on a sales call or customer service request, and slams into another vehicle on the way, your company assumes responsibility.
When the fleet driver is responsible
When your drivers use company vehicles outside of normal work responsibilities, they tend to be more at risk.
If a fleet driver causes the collision due to criminal behaviour such as drunk driving, your company’s insurance may refuse to cover the incident, leaving the driver to foot the bill for the damage.
This could also be true if your employee crashes a company vehicle while driving recklessly, or while going off-route for personal errands, such as stopping at the park or gym.
How driver training and outsourcing can minimise accident risk
With driver training, you can up-skill your drivers in safe driving practices and defensive skills. And that means fewer accidents.
By instilling the importance of driving safety, awareness of road risks, and proper behind-the-wheel behaviour with a good training programme, you will effectively limit costs, and keep drivers safe.
However, this and other risk mitigation tasks can be very expensive if done completely in-house. It’s possible to save huge amounts by outsourcing your fleet risk management.
By working with a fleet management partner like First Rescue, you can be sure all aspects of lowering accident risk, such as transparent reporting, risk assessment, and detailed cost analysis, will be fully handled on your behalf. This can bring substantial returns, leading to a healthier budget and bottom line.
When fleet drivers cause accidents, it can threaten your company’s long-term outlook. The costs, admin, and lost business are worth taking action to prevent. The smartest move? Outsource your accident management to maintain a safe fleet, stable budget, and peace of mind.