Close Gaps in Fleet Safety to Avoid Negligent Entrustment Liability, Part Four

Part four of a four-part series on negligent entrustment: ‘Onboard vehicle technologies that address areas of liability'.

By Brian Kinniry, Senior Director, Strategic Services, The CEI Group, Inc.

Part one of the negligent entrustment series summarized the main grounds for a fleet-related negligent entrustment case. Part two addressed how a fleet manager could build a transparent, fair, and enforceable safety policy to help safeguard the fleet from exposure to this form of liability. Part three walks through technologies unrelated to the vehicle. Part four investigates onboard vehicle technologies that can prevent accidents and reduce liability.

Training on New Technologies is Paramount to Avoiding Negligence

If your fleet is able to adopt some of the new technologies being outlined today, that is a great step to keeping your drivers safe, but the job is not done after installation. The rollout of these new technologies must be paired with training to teach your drivers how they work and where limitations lie. Make sure you document the training completion for all drivers, because every record of training and communication with your drivers will help prove that your company properly completed its duty of care.

Backup Cameras and Back-up Warning Systems

One of the older technologies in this list that can help prevent accidents, backup cameras, will be standard features in every new vehicle from 2018 on in the United States. Backup sensors in vehicles have also been around for a while and chime in when a driver gets too close to hitting an object; some systems can alert the driver of cross traffic behind the vehicle. While these provide a better experience when reversing, it is important to still check around the back of the vehicle, use the mirrors, and physically turn around for a full view.

Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB)

AEB is a great feature that can help prevent accidents by applying the brakes if the driver fails to do so themselves. It works in tandem with forward collision warning systems and occasionally works with backup warning systems. Most AEB systems work only for forward collisions and are great tools to prevent rear-end accidents. Upfitting your fleet can cost anywhere from 100-450 dollars, according to a 2014 report from NHTSA. On March 17, 2016, an agreement was reached to make AEB a standard feature by 2022, but many automakers have said that it will be a standard offering much sooner.

Lane Departure Systems and Adaptive Cruise Control

Lane departure systems use an audio, visual, or haptic measure to alert the driver that they are drifting out of their lane. Some systems can keep the vehicle in lane in a corrective or semi-autonomous fashion, while others simply provide a warning that might help a distracted driver.

Adaptive cruise control allows drivers to set a speed and follow distance for the vehicle in front of them, and the car will speed up or slow down in accordance with the car in front of them. Some systems can come to a complete stop and even work in congested traffic, but the driver still need to steer the vehicle.

Making the Case for These Technologies

Many of these systems will be standard or optional with increasing frequency in the coming years. Insurers usually take their time judging the effectiveness of newer safety features, so it will take some time for insurance premiums to drop. But adopting these new features early or simply choosing a model for your fleet that has many of these features standard will help prove that your company is taking active measures to keep drivers safe if a third party tries to sue for negligent entrustment. Prices will drop with increased adoption rates, but certain systems remain pricey.

Remember that these cases of negligent entrustment are looking for a chink in your fleet’s armor. This is why it is important to keep liability in mind while drafting your safety policy, finding a set of fleet vehicles, providing training, and handling remediation. And always remember to document every measure you take along the way.

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