It’s hard enough retaining good drivers these days. Fleets really can’t afford to lose drivers to an on-the-job injury that draws an expensive workers’ comp claim. But the transportation industry has one of the highest rates of on-the-job injuries. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that transportation and material moving workers filed 12,750 days away from work cases in 2017, an increase of 3,120 cases over 2016.
Drivers file workers’ comp claims for all kinds of reasons, but according to America’s Workers Compensation, an insurance agency focused on the workers’ compensation business, most are due to collisions, slips and falls, or lifting heavy items. Longer distances increase the risk of collision, as do hazardous weather conditions, distracted driving and plenty of other factors. Drivers are especially prone to injuries because they typically spend many hours seated, interspersed with brief periods of strenuous loading and unloading.
The transportation industry spends $0.79 per hour worked for workers’ comp insurance, or 2.9 percent of total compensation, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. As premiums rise with increased health care costs, fleets are investigating how to reduce workers’ comp claims. Ideally, the same strategies to reduce claims can also boost driver satisfaction and retention. Here are five ideas to consider.
Learn from the near-misses
Near-miss incidents narrowly avoid expensive workers’ comp claims, and they can signal bigger safety issues to come. Lytx data shows that for every fatality, there are six incidents of minor injury or property damage — and a whopping 190 acts of risky behavior. Each of these minor incidents or risky acts presents a learning opportunity.
When a driver has a near-miss, you can use the incident as a teaching moment. Reference video footage (such as on-demand clips from the Lytx Video ServicesSM program that can pinpoint the moments before and after an incident) to see what nearly caused a collision. Was the driver distracted or nodding off before suddenly braking or swerving? Or is there a particularly dangerous intersection your fleet might want to avoid? Raising these issues at regular safety meetings can spark useful conversations about safety among your drivers, and be a useful tactic for fleets who want to address how to reduce workers’ comp claims.
Spot-check safety compliance
Safer drivers have fewer collisions, and that can mean fewer workers’ comp claims for commercial transportation companies. There are many ways to improve safety — such as keeping vehicles properly maintained — but one of the most powerful ways is simply enforcing your existing rules. Make sure every driver knows you’re serious about enforcing your safety policies and best practices.
You can also use exterior-facing camera footage to review safety compliance at work sites or loading docks. Combined with the exception-based video from the driver-facing lens—triggered only when an unsafe driving event occurs—the continuous recording available on the road-facing lens can help ensure that workers are fully protected and comply with safety procedures in the field.
Coach your drivers
Drivers may not realize that they have developed unsafe habits until they see their behavior captured on video. Video can help identify risky behaviors — such as looking at a smartphone or not wearing a seatbelt — that can be easily coached.
Effective coaching can be as quick as a three-minute conversation, says Victor Malchesky of Swift Transportation. Malchesky’s team uses video from the Lytx Driver Safety Program to help drivers enhance their skills over the long term. “We owe it to our drivers and the motoring community to have meaningful conversations with them to help fine-tune their driving—gently and professionally,” Malchesky explains.
Improve driver health
Knowing how to reduce workers’ comp claims is all the more important in light of a recent Duke University study. It found that obese workers file twice as many workers’ comp claims and miss 13 times more days of work than their non-obese coworkers. A wellness program can improve drivers’ overall health through simple measures like smarter food choices, mindfulness, better sleep habits and regular exercise. These changes can lead to happier drivers who stick around, and the program costs can be offset by reduced workers’ compensation claims and insurance premiums.
We recently spoke with Sergio Rojas to learn how the Hirschbach Motor Lines wellness program has improved the health of its drivers. Fully 87 percent of the program graduates have improved their health by losing weight, getting off diabetes medication or quitting smoking — and many participants report better habits that help them feel more alert and engaged behind the wheel.
Make your fleet officially “drug-free”
While many fleets have rules about drug use among drivers, not all are official “drug-free workplaces.” In 13 states, this designation can reduce workers’ compensation premiums by up to 10 percent. Plus, in some states, workers’ comp claims can be automatically denied if the injured employee tests positive for drugs in a “drug-free workplace.”
Insurance costs could continue to rise, but taking proactive steps to reduce workers’ comp claims can keep your fleet’s expenses in check — and even help improve driver retention.