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It’s no secret that trucks play an essential role in in the functioning of society. We rely on trucks to deliver just about everything that makes its way into our lives, whether we’re at work or at leisure.

Research by the American Trucking Associations found that trucks transported 11.84 billion tons of freight (primary shipments only), which accounts for 72.5% of total domestic tonnage shipped around the country. In 2019, 3.6 million truck drivers moved goods to keep our stores stocked, our vehicles fueled and our families fed.1

While trucks keep our lives on track, there is an inherent risk of catastrophic loss and injury if something goes wrong. That’s because trucks can weigh 20 to 30 times as much as passenger vehicles and require 20 to 40 percent more distance than cars to break, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).2 Add that to a list of ordinary hazards like slick roads, tire blowouts and highway debris, and it’s easy to see that trucking can be a risky business.

At Nationwide, we’re here to help. Here is some information that will help you reduce your risk, maintain safety on the road and access our assistance if and when you need it.

Common catastrophic injury and loss claims

Truck drivers face many potential hazards on the road, including passenger vehicles that misjudge how much space trucks need to come to a full stop, how wide their turns are and how to safely change lanes in front of them.

When things go awry, the consequences can be grim. Research by IIHS found that 4,119 people died in large truck crashes in 2019. Sixty-seven percent of these deaths were occupants of cars and other passenger vehicles, 16 percent were truck occupants and 15 percent were bicyclists, pedestrians or motorcyclists.3 Even if there’s not a fatality, accidents involving large trucks can result in serious injury, including third-degree burns, brain trauma, limb loss or paralysis.

In addition to the human toll, there’s also a significant impact on the truck involved and the freight it is carrying.

“Trucks are expensive, and they can carry highly valuable cargo that can also be damaged,” explains Chris Miller, CPCU, Director of E&S Transportation Claims at Nationwide.

This can add up to significant claims against truck drivers and owner operators, especially since passenger vehicle drivers often have limited liability coverage. In the worst case, a single catastrophic loss can end a trucker’s business, even if the driver is not at fault. Regardless of the outcome of any litigation, the resulting increase in premium can have a devastating financial impact on the truck driver or operator, too.

Protecting yourself from risk

While risks of the road are inevitable, accidents don’t have to be. 

“There are steps trucking companies can take to mitigate risk of accidents involving catastrophic loss and injury, for their safety and for the wellbeing of others on the road,” notes Miller.

First, it’s essential that your operation has a fleet safety program in place, which should include safety training, policies, procedures and other related measures. A safety program is only effective if it is enforced, so it’s important to have a consistent process in place to hold employees and leaders accountable for following safety protocols.

Technology offers other ways to keep drivers safe on the road. Best practices include using electronic logging devices (ELD). An ELD connects to a truck’s engine so it can record when it is in motion and allows drivers to log in and record their duty status. Ultimately, an ELD helps trucking companies ensure they are in compliance with Hours of Service and Record of Duty Status regulations established by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

Dashcams provide another layer of safety for drivers and operators. Stand-alone dashcams are cameras that can be mounted inside a truck to record what is happening on the road or inside the cab. Dashcam recordings are a valuable tool in the aftermath of an accident because they provide clear and unbiased evidence. This can help law enforcement and accident investigation professionals determine who is at fault should litigation occur, which helps resolve claims more quickly.

Telematics-based dashcams can do much more than document an accident. They can also track a driver’s safety related to speed, braking, cornering and accelerating. This information can be used proactively to help coach drivers on best practices for safety, which can help protect both the fleet and other drivers on the road.

Finally, make sure your organization is keeping thorough records, which provides an additional level of protection in the event of an incident. Key records include:
  • Current Motor Vehicle Records for all your drivers
  • Incident and accident reports
  • Ride-along evaluations
  • Safety training records
  • Telematics performance data
  • Driver medical cards
  • Department of Transportation (DOT) roadside inspection reports
  • Scheduling records
  • Records of motorist calls

Nationwide as your advocate

In the event of an accident, it’s essential to act swiftly.

“The most important thing the truck driver can do is promptly report the claim – within 24 hours or less,” explains Miller. “When we get a claim, we immediately focus on evidence preservation, so every minute counts.”

When a driver calls Nationwide in the aftermath of an accident, our claims professionals can help walk the driver and the operator through the process to ensure they quickly collect electronic control module data, including dashcam footage, breaking information, speed and the exact time of the accident, as well as relevant records at the office.

“Truth is a defense for you,” says Miller. “Good recordkeeping, up-to-date files, medical cards on drivers—these little things you should be doing during the routine course of business can make a big difference when a problem arises.”

Nationwide’s claims professionals will also advise the truck driver to record information about the other drivers who were involved in the accident and capture the names and contact details of any witnesses.

This is important because in the event of catastrophic loss or injury, plaintiffs often litigate against the trucking company because they are likely to have greater coverage limits than individual drivers. In the event of an accident, Nationwide’s legal counsel will get involved to represent our insured and prepare them for a potential claim.

“You have insurance to protect yourself,” says Miller. “We want to find out the truth about what happened so we can pay the cases where we owe and fight for our insureds when they weren’t at fault.”

The benefits of reducing risk

When you follow best safety practices, thorough recordkeeping and prompt reporting of incidents and accidents, the benefits are clear.

“These measures can help lower your expenses and loss ratio, as well as your premium,” sums up Miller. “They also keep our highways safer, which is a win for everyone.”