Driving violations and accidents can have severe consequences — everything from hefty fines and high insurance premiums to the tragic loss of life. That is why ARA Insurance Agent Rob Hoag of RJ Hoag Insurance, Riverton, N.J., encourages his clients to take advantage of the driving safety resources from the American Rental Association (ARA).
“The most frequent claims I see involve trailers. We also see a lot of right-hand turn accidents, backing up and striking a fixed object, rear-ending a vehicle in front of them and hitting the top of a box truck on low branches or low utility lines,” he says.
To reduce those incidents and ensure the safety of employees and customers, Hoag begins the conversation with “the birth certificate of safe driving, which is hiring safe drivers,” he says. “With every renewal and every driver added to a policy, we run the driver’s motor vehicle record. If that driver is not eligible to drive because they have had several violations within a short period of time or are suspended due to an infraction like a DUI, we inform the insured of that ineligibility. We are trying to help our clients hire good drivers,” he says.
Another key is sharing Department of Transportation (DOT) safety reports with the insureds. “These reports show inspections that took place and violations that occurred such as if the tread was too low on a tire, if someone was pulled over because they were on the cellphone or the equipment wasn’t secured properly on the trailer. Each violation is given a level of severity, which prompts a discussion with the insured on what they can do to avoid these violations in the future,” Hoag says.
To address all areas of driving safety, Hoag breaks it down into categories:
- At home, i.e., in the rental yard
- On the road
- At the delivery site/customer safety
“From there I break it down further. I include vehicle safety where we go over the vehicle checklist. I have that conversation often and provide that list to my insureds as well as the driver evaluation form. Both are DOT-approved documents that are available on ARA’s RentalU,” he says. “I also ask about the policies my clients have surrounding safe driving, including fleet safety, cellphones, drugs and alcohol, and CDL driver safety. ARA Insurance has DOT-approved cellphone and drug policy manual templates that I offer my insureds.”
Then Hoag looks at how his clients maintain data on those policies. “For instance, every 24 months, a CDL driver has to be physically examined to receive a certificate to be an eligible driver. DOT requires that you have a driver’s file. We look at where they keep that documentation,” he says.
To ensure these safety measures are being heard, Hoag says he strongly suggests his clients “have a formal safety program in place for the entire staff and one specific to drivers and vehicle maintenance. I know they probably don’t have the time during their busy season for daily driver safety huddles before they hit the road, but I think there should be one weekly driver safety meeting or at least one every month. The more you discuss situations with drivers the more it is entrenched into their habits and how they handle things. It is like muscle memory.”
Outside of meetings, Hoag says drivers should take advantage of the other driving resources ARA offers, including the Professional Driver Education Program, the short video Prioritize Safety Series and other driver safety videos, most of which are free. Click here to learn more about ARA’s driving resources.
He also is a firm believer that owners “should not be afraid to talk with drivers about the claims they have experienced. They can be good learning tools — a way to take a negative situation and turn it into a positive learning tool,” he says.
The goal is to keep everyone safe. A comprehensive driver safety program can go a long way in achieving that goal. “And reduced claims dramatically reduce
clients’ cost of insurance,” Hoag says.