A LOOMING INSURANCE crisis has probably already driven one or more of your friendly local competitors out of business. You just haven't heard the details through the grapevine, and I don't mean health-care or workers' compensation insurance.
In a trade such as ours that is almost completely dependent on trucks and vans to get people and materials to and from various jobs — whether they be service, remodeling or construction — it's a genuine shock how few companies have a comprehensive company vehicle policy and an even greater shock still how some companies don't have any policy at all.
Think about it: You wouldn't trust your teenager to drive your personal vehicle without making sure he understands a laundry list of ground rules that he has to abide by; if he commits a single infraction, then he's grounded from driving for a long, long time.
Why on earth, then, would you trust one of your employees to drive a company vehicle without verifying that he actually has a valid driver's license and not one created from a credential mill? And why wouldn't you expect him to show you a certified copy of his current state DMV record for the past 10 years to show that he is indeed worthy of your trust?
You might have an employee who is or has been a closet substance abuser and has been arrested in the past for driving under the influence but managed to keep that and his addiction a secret from you. I don't care if he is your best mechanic or foreman, please give me one good reason why you wouldn't want to know this.
"Denial" is a beautiful river where you can sit on the banks and drink a mint julep under the shade of an umbrella held by a company employee. But when you put employees behind the wheel of a company vehicle or personal vehicle being driven on company business, you are quite literally crap-shooting the future of your company. If they have an at-fault or shared-fault accident, the injured party isn't going to go after your wage slave but after the person who made it all possible and who appears to have deeper pockets. That means you, dear reader.
No vehicle insurance, then no company.
Don't think this would or could ever happen to you or your company? Call your insurance agent and ask him to stop by and talk with you about your Motor Vehicle Record and Distracted Driver policies — that your company doesn't currently have — during which he'll show and tell you documented horror story after horror story of how a basic lack of common-sense company driving policies not only bankrupted other companies, but their owners and principals as well.
It's a crying shame that we have to seem as though we're being so hard on our employees when we demand that they give up some personal privacies and "efficiencies," such as allowing them to eat or drink while their vehicle is in motion, or mandating GPS and engine-spec recorders to make sure they are where they say they are and aren't breaking any speed laws. But then again, all we are doing is demanding that they treat us with the same respect that we treat them.
Your company could get by without offering health insurance as a benefit to employees. Sure, they'd grumble and complain and you might lose some of your better people, but your company wouldn't have to shut its doors if it wasn't available.
Try even thinking about keeping your doors open if you couldn't get an insurance policy to cover your company vehicles or employees' use of their personal vehicles for company business. Ain't gonna happen, Jack. No company vehicle insurance, then no company, period. It really is that simple and a single at-fault accident could put you squarely in this predicament.
So, call up your insurance agent or broker and ask him to prepare a better company vehicle usage policy that will lower your overall insurance premiums without significantly affecting the productivity of your employees. Parts of what he proposes that you don't like, negotiate. Ask him if excluding this or including that will increase or decrease your monthly or quarterly premium in real greenbacks, not conceptual ones.
Then make some bottom-line choices. You'll be happy, and eventually your employees will be glad, that you did.
H. Kent Craig is a second-generation mechanical contractor and project manager with unlimited Master's licenses in boilers, air conditioning, heating and plumbing. He can be reached by calling 919/2910878, or via e-mail at [email protected]. His Website is hkentcraig.com. M. Kipp Whitley of Federated Insurance assisted Kent Craig with this column.