Having been a professional truck driver and trainer for more than 30 years, I find that you never, ever know it all. There are always new things to learn. My primary goal with this blog is to help other drivers (especially newer ones) with pertinent information and tips to enable them to work happier and more safely. Guest posts, contributors and feed-back are always welcome and wanted!
At home I instinctively grab the remote and change the channel until they’re over. But at the gym in the evenings, that’s not an option. So I have to watch the advertisements put out by two local lawyers promising “Big Checks!” to wronged individuals all across the great state of Alabama.
These guys are the ambulance-chasing grifters of the legal world and the commercials have the subtlety and charm usually reserved for used-car salesmen. One guy, in his ad, waves around a high-powered rifle (because this is Alabama, I guess). The theme here is that he’ll go “hunting “for the money that you are rightly owed for your pain and suffering. He eventually points the rifle at a deer and pulls the trigger. Then the deer’s head explodes in a spray of hundred dollar bills.
You can’t make this shit up.
But as tacky and stupid as these commercials are, there’s a serious problem with them. Because there is almost always, without fail, an 18-wheeler prominently displayed at some point in the ad.
Usually, an ominous voice asks, “Have you been injured by a BIG TRUCK??” while an air horn blasts in the background for good measure.
These guys are looking for an easy mark. And guess what? You’re that easy mark.
Truck fleets and owner-operators are an ambulance chaser’s wet dream. As I’ve noted before,everybody hates trucks. They’re big. They’re scary. As far as Joe Q. Public is concerned, the guys driving them are probably too irresponsible to handle something that big and poorly trained to boot. When crashes do happen, they’re usually spectacular and grab headlines, reinforcing all the stereotypes I just listed. And best of all: Lawyers know that fleets – big fleets in particular – have money and big, fat insurance policies.
All of which is a dream come true if you’re pitching a BIG CASH PAYOUT to a lawsuit-happy viewing public drunk on the idea of easy money.
It’s unsettling to me to see our industry so blatantly targeted like this. And of course, it’s not fair, at all. There are bad apples in the industry. And accidents do happen. But the vast majority of fleets and drivers on the road today are professionals who place a high degree of importance on safety.
Unfortunately, that message is not reaching the four-wheeling public at large. And, in my opinion, it’s unlikely to get there any time soon.
So, it’s time for a reality check. If you’re a fleet or an owner-operator, you have to understand that Big Check law firms are watching and waiting on you to screw up. And once that happens, they’re going to strike hard and take you for every cent they possibly can.
Your only defense against these guys is a good offense. And that means you have to be proactive.
Everyone hates sitting down and talking with their insurance agent. Personally, I’d rather go have a tooth filled. But, if you’re a fleet exec or an owner-operator, you need to make regular meetings with your insurance agent a normal part of your business routine. At least twice a year, sit down with your agent and get up to speed on what’s happening both nationally and locally on the litigation front. Review your coverage to make sure there are no gaps and that you’re in the best possible shape to deal with a lawsuit should one come your way.
If you’re not already investing in vehicle safety devices, now’s the time to start looking into them. And if you’re already using such devices, consider adding new ones.
This costs money, of course. And that’s a big negative. On the other hand, it looks more and more like many – if not all – of these systems will be government mandated in the next few years. So there’s something to be said for gaining experience with them and getting ahead of the curve now.
As an aside, it’s worth noting that insurance companies and, presumably, Big Check Lawyers, aren’t exactly thrilled by the concept of federally mandated safety systems and increasing levels of vehicle automation
. That says volumes right there. As trucks become safer, their ability to generate insurance income or lawsuits decreases dramatically.
It’s a fact that investing in safety equipment is expensive. But, there are very real returns on that investment in terms of reduced insurance costs and reduced, or non-existent lawsuit payouts.
You can invest in safety. Or you can write checks to lawyers. As I said, it’s not fair to be targeted like that. But that’s the world we live in.