Our Firm defended a trucking company in a negligence action where the Plaintiff alleged that a fatality accident was caused by our company's poor fleet maintenance. The following outlines the failures made leading up to the accident, and the steps that a trucking company can take to avoid these same mistakes.
Know and Follow Your Own Policies and Procedures
In our case, one of our maintenance supervisors testified that the company generated a "root cause" report. This was never actually generated because it was not required by our company's policies and procedures. A mistake like this will not only make it seem that you are hiding evidence, but it also will make it appear you are not following your own policies and procedures. Any deviation from your own company's policies and procedures is the worst offense you can commit.
Act On and Document All Maintenance of Your Vehicles
In the two months leading up to the accident, the truck was written up approximately 60 times for problems. Half of these complaints were never addressed in writing, and as a result, we had no way of proving that these complaints were actually resolved. Even if you perfectly maintain your fleet, any failure to properly document this maintenance will fit nicely with the picture that Plaintiff's counsel is trying to paint: that your company puts profits over safety.
Implement Your Own Audit System
One way a company can avoid these mistakes is by implementing a self-audit system where someone goes through and "audits" the fleet maintenance records just as a Plaintiff's attorney would do if the truck were involved in an accident. Not only does this help fix any mistakes that your company may be making, but it is also a great training tool for drivers, mechanics, and supervisors to educate them on what is expected under your company's policies and procedures going forward.
The failure to follow these small steps can cause massive losses to a trucking company. Any shortcomings in fleet maintenance will be blown out of proportion by Plaintiff's counsel who will characterize the company's actions to the jury as careless, lazy, and focused on making money at the expense of the safety of the public.