Expert Commentary

Attention to Details Reduces Fleet Loss Exposures

The development and implementation of a systematic plan for evaluating prospective drivers and all the attendant details pays big benefits down the road. Today's risk manager should review and verify the abilities and histories of all prospective drivers. By paying attention to the details, the motor carrier's frequency and severity of losses inevitably will improve.

Auto Risk Management
March 2000

Attention to small details can reap big benefits for risk managers. This is not only true today but has its origins back before the Middle Ages. One piece of folklore addresses the need in this way:

For want of a nail, the shoe was lost;
For want of a shoe, the horse was lost;
For want of a horse, the rider was lost;
For want of a rider, the battle was lost;
For want of a battle, the kingdom was lost!

In risk management, as in life, it is well known that a chain of events can have a point of crisis that could magnify inattention to detail. Such is the case with risk managers of commercial fleets that fail to focus on driving records, physical exams, written exams, and driving tests for prospective drivers. Failure to pay attention to the smallest details in this area can result in a horrible loss. Let's look in more detail at these four critical areas of loss control.

Ordering And Interpreting The Driving Record

Ordering motor vehicle reports (MVRs) and comprehensive loss underwriting exchange (CLUE) reports on all operator applicants is the single most important auto loss control activity a company can take. Every state motor vehicle department has the capability of providing driving information including traffic violations, accidents, and driving suspensions. Running these reports will also assure the employer that the applicant has the appropriate commercial driver's license (CDL). The CLUE report is available as a result of an exchange through which insurers contribute their own personal claim data and in turn access the data of other insurers as needed.

Drivers with extensive histories of accidents and tickets obviously should not be hired for positions that involve a significant amount of vehicle operation. Also, the failure to obtain proper documentation on these checks can result in heightened liability exposures from possible accidents. For common carriers, these records normally have to be kept for 3 years.

It is also highly recommended that driving records be periodically ordered for current employees. This is particularly important for drivers involved in accidents in which they are partially or totally negligent. Taking the precaution of checking driving records of prospective employees during the hiring process, and checking the records of current employees as well, not only helps employers avoid hiring bad drivers but also reassures employees of management's commitment to safety.

Physical Qualifications/Physical Exam

Employers need to verify that their fleet operators are in good health and fully capable of driving safely. Companies that are not motor carriers are not required by law to conduct physical exams. However, motor carriers subject to the Federal Motor Carrier Act are required to verify that their applicants pass a medical examination before they are hired. In addition, they must successfully pass the same exam every 2 years to continue driving.

An examination will focus on the following areas.

  • Head and spinal injuries
  • Seizures, including epilepsy
  • Diabetes
  • Nervous stomach
  • Kidney disease
  • Muscular disease
  • Psychiatric or nervous disorder
  • Vision
  • Hearing
  • Reflexes
  • General condition of arms and legs
  • Controlled substance testing

Individuals with any type of disability may still be eligible to drive under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA); however, their disability must permit them to perform the integral aspects of the job without endangering any persons or property. The ADA mandates an employer's accommodation of the disability unless it places an undue hardship on the employer.

Written Examination

Many employers, particularly motor carriers, also require written exams of prospective drivers, although the exam is no longer required by federal regulations. The purpose of the written exam is to give the employer another tool in its evaluation of the ability of the applicant. The employer may reject an applicant who performs poorly on the written exam and who also is marginal in other areas. The exam also may be used for training purposes for existing employees.

Yard And Road Test Of Driving Skills

The yard test allows the employer to gauge an applicant's ability to park in tight areas including parallel parking, maneuvering through tightly spaced barricades, and backing up in restricted space such as a simulated loading area. The goal is to perform these driving tasks without touching any obstructing or peripheral objects. This test can be performed in a limited amount of time and space and at low cost. If an applicant performs poorly here, there is no need to proceed to the standard road test.

The goal of the road test is to properly evaluate an applicant's full range of driving skills. The examiner performing the test should be very knowledgeable about all aspects and features of the vehicle as well as being familiar with the applicant's background and previous driving experience.

The road test for a truck driver should generally cover the following.

  • Pre-trip inspection
  • Placing the vehicle in motion
  • Use of controls, including motor, clutch, transmission, brakes, steering, lights, and emergency equipment
  • Coupling and uncoupling
  • Backing
  • Parking in the city
  • Parking on the road, including emergency parking
  • Slowing and stopping
  • Operating in heavy traffic
  • Passing
  • Turning
  • Traffic signs and signals
  • Handling intersections
  • Grade crossings
  • Courtesy and safety
  • Speed
  • General driving habits, including demeanor, alertness, physical stamina, and patience
  • Handling of freight
  • Rules and regulations

The examiner should designate whether the applicant scored a satisfactory or unsatisfactory mark. In addition, if the applicant passed the exam but needs some training in a particular area, this should be designated on the road test report. The report should also show what type of vehicle the applicant is qualified to drive. Motor carriers are required to maintain records of these road tests, which could prove helpful in the event of an accident and ensuing lawsuit involving a particular driver.


The development and implementation of a systematic plan for evaluating prospective drivers and all the attendant details will pay big benefits down the road. Just as the "risk manager" for the King of Prussia during the Middle Ages proved his worth by verifying that all horses were properly fitted with shoes before battle, today's risk manager will do likewise in reviewing and verifying the abilities and histories of all prospective drivers. By paying attention to the details in this manner, the motor carrier's frequency and severity of losses inevitably will improve.

Opinions expressed in Expert Commentary articles are those of the author and are not necessarily held by the author's employer or IRMI. Expert Commentary articles and other IRMI Online content do not purport to provide legal, accounting, or other professional advice or opinion. If such advice is needed, consult with your attorney, accountant, or other qualified adviser.

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