As we move more and more freight around this country we seem to be hearing of more tragic accidents involving trucks. Whether the fault lay with the other party or the truck driver – and regrettably the percentage is growing where the truck driver is at fault – the aftermath is no less tragic, and no easier for the truck driver to deal with. To say who is at fault does not matter would be wrong, because it can be a major factor in how to deal with the aftermath, but apportioning of blame does not change the emotional impact or grieving process.
Some appear to deal with this better than others, but no matter how it appears, no one is unscathed even if they do walk away from a serious injury or fatal crash.
Because of vehicle size it is often the truck driver who walks away and the occupants of the other vehicles who suffer the injury or fatality. This, however, does not mean there is no emotional trauma for the truck driver, and employers need to know how to recognise and deal with this.
I realise this is a sensitive subject and perhaps one I am not qualified to comment on, but over my years I have had drivers involved in two fatal accidents; one where the driver of the other vehicle was deceased, and another where I lost a good employee and friend. Additionally, in my current role I have worked with company owners who have found themselves in similar situations.
When involved in these situations it can be difficult to think rationally, but if you are the driver’s employer you are the friendly face amidst the chaos and turmoil they are going through, whether they are at fault or not. The accident scene is not a place for recrimination even if you believe your driver to be at fault; at this time they are a victim as much as anybody else. There will be plenty of time for analysis later.
A driver involved in a serious injury or fatal accident, even if physically uninjured, suffers mental trauma and National Road Carriers as an industry association encourages company owners to seek trauma counselling for their employee and ownerdrivers at these times. Even if no effect of mental trauma is obvious it is far better to have a professional evaluate the support the driver needs than to rely the opinion of the boss.
We believe this to be important enough to have discussed the possibility of including trauma care for drivers with our insurer as part of, or an option, in the insurance cover they offer.
If you’re involved in the aftermath of an accident, assist the injured where you can, although never attempt to move anyone unless they are at risk of further harm or death. If professional trauma staff are on site, assist only as instructed. Be there as support for your driver but remember to avoid the admission of blame. Even if you or your driver suspect they may be at fault, neither of you will really know for sure where fault lies as there may be circumstances you are both unaware of.
Contact your insurance provider and lawyer as soon as practicable following a serious accident, preferably while still at the accident scene.
You insurance provider can also assist with the recovery of your vehicle, whether it is to be impounded or not pending further investigation, and any clean up or salvage that may be required. If you do not have a 24-hour number emergency number for your insurance provider, then ask them for one today.
If you don’t have a lawyer, members of National Road Carriers can call on the free initial consultation available to them through Fortune Manning Law. Do not make any statements or offer any opinions until you have done this; it may avoid a lot of anguish and uncertainty at a later date.
I really hope that you are never put in the situation of needing to go through this process but it is important to be prepared.
By Grant Turner, Executive Officer, National Road Carriers
DDI: 09 636 2953
Supporting those who choose to make a living in the Road Transport Industry since 1936