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

Part one of a four-part series on negligent entrustment.

By Kevin Reilly, Editorial Communications Manager, The CEI Group, Inc.

Negligent entrustment – two words that keep the experienced fleet manager up at night. And yet, there are still fleets, large and small, that are not in a position to defend themselves from this form of liability.

Negligent entrustment occurs when an employer allows an employee to drive on company business when the employer should have known that that employee was unfit for the road. The key word in this definition is “should.” The onus is on the employer to execute their due diligence before allowing an employee behind the wheel for business, and a company cannot claim they “didn’t know” about the reckless history or habits a driver possessed when they gave that driver the keys.

No two fleets are the same, and the liability issues they face are just as unique as the rest of their operations. Some fleets don’t have a safety policy at all, or a weak one at best, and these fleets are one negligent claim away from a lawsuit. Sure these fleets may order a pre-hire Motor Vehicle Record, drug test, and run a yearly check on their drivers, but in today’s environment, that model is incomplete.

Even a gray fleet driver – any employee that must drive a private vehicle to complete a job-related task – can expose a company to liability. An employer will have to protect and cover the employee if an accident occurs.

Negligent entrustment cases are on the rise due to distracted driving. In our next column, we will explain how to close the gaps with a safety policy that can be enforced through reasonably actionable policies.

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