Nuclear verdicts are a hot topic in the trucking and transportation industry, and for good reason. In 2010 there were less than 10 cases against trucking companies with a verdict over $1 million; in 2011 there were nearly 60, and there hasn’t been less than 30 in a year since then. And it’s not just the number of cases that’s increasing, but the amount of the verdict. The average verdict in 2010 was $2.3 million; in 2018 it was $22.3 million 1.
A single finding against a trucking company can be catastrophic, at times even forcing their closure. With that in mind, is there anything a company can do to reduce the risk that one of their drivers will be involved in one of these cases? The answer is: Absolutely!
Pre-hire Physical Abilities Testing
Now, you may ask, “How does watching a person lift a tarp or pull a force equal to the fifth wheel release tell anything about their chance of causing an accident?” While driver error is the most common cause behind nuclear verdicts, a 1989 study by the NTSB found that of 189 trucking accidents with fatalities, 10% were attributed to medical problems. Of that 10%, 90% were classified as cardiovascular related 2. That’s a really important number.
Prior to candidates beginning their ErgoScience’s Physical Abilities Tests (PAT), their heart rate and blood pressure are checked. If either of those are deemed too high to safely test, that information is shared with the candidate, and they are informed that they can’t test until they’ve worked with a physician to address the issue.
In addition, the scoring of our PAT includes a heart rate component. If the heart rate rises excessively while applicants are performing the tasks of the test, they will fail the test and be advised to improve their cardiovascular health before retesting.
How does the elimination of drivers who are too deconditioned to perform their essential job-related functions help decrease motor vehicle crashes? The answer is explained in research published in 2016, in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
Reducing Employee Cardiovascular Risk
As cardiovascular disease risk rises, truck drivers have up to double the risk of being in a DOT-reportable accident! This increased accident risk puts professional drivers, as well as pedestrians and other drivers at greater risk for injury and death. By hiring those who have the cardiovascular ability to do the job, you are also hiring those with fewer cardiovascular disease risks.
So, what does this mean to you? As a company, you may be able to greatly reduce your exposure to nuclear verdicts, not to mention reducing the risk of more common work comp injuries and turnover!
To find out how easy it is to get started, contact ErgoScience today!
1. Understanding the Impact of Nuclear Verdicts on the Trucking Industry. American Transportation Research Institute. June 2020
2. Fatigue Alcohol. N.T.S. Board, editor. Other Drugs and Medical Factors in Fatal-to-Driver Heavy Truck Crashes. 1990 PB90-917992, NTSB/SS-90/01.