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Opinion: Trucking Work-Injury Programs

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11/10/2010 8:00:00 AM

By Bill Steben
Vice President, Underwriting
Ameriplan Benefit Corp.

This Opinion piece appears in the Nov. 8 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

Earlier this year, American Trucking Associations released a very upbeat forecast for U.S. freight transportation. The volume of freight transported is expected to grow steadily over the next decade, and the trucking industry’s share of the freight shipped is projected to be nearly 82% of freight tonnage by revenue.

That’s good news, but motor carriers will be challenged to keep pace with this growth — and finding enough drivers to meet demand will be particularly difficult. The search for drivers will be complicated by trucking management’s need to be mindful of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s new Compliance, Safety and Accountability initiative — henceforth to be known simply as CSA — with its focus on driver quality at a time when driver quantity already is an issue. Management also will be coping with an aging workforce and a shortage of young new drivers entering the profession.

Many trucking companies will choose to expand their workforce by contracting with owner-operators and independent drivers. Fortunately for everyone concerned, the owner-operator business model is alive, well and very attractive to companies looking to minimize capital investment and achieve the flexibility needed to respond to a fluctuating demand for services. In many cases, motor carriers have company drivers, as well as contracts with fleets and individual owner-operators.

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Regardless of how a trucking company goes about building its driver workforce, one of the key responsibilities of risk managers and safety directors is to put an effective work-injury program in place for drivers and other employees. The focus first must be on finding the proper work-injury coverage for their driver force. Next, with the decline in available replacement drivers, it also will be important for each trucking company to develop an aggressive return-to-work plan when injuries do occur.

It is clear that statutory workers’ compensation is the appropriate and required coverage for employee drivers, but the same can’t be said for small fleets and owner-operators. In that situation, occupational accident insurance often is an acceptable — and much more affordable — option for drivers who are not company employees.

© 2010, Transport Topics Publishing Group. All rights reserved.


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