How to Manage Roadside Accidents
Updated: Dec 7, 2021
When an emergency roadside situation occurs, a safe and organized response is crucial. Adhering to these critical steps can minimize not only the loss or damage of cargo but also protect and potentially save the lives of the driver and others on the road who may be in jeopardy. Having a plan in place to handle the before, during, and after of an
unexpected tractor tow or vehicle recovery can help fleets to better plan for these events.
Prep when possible
In preparation for the unexpected, fleets should first vet and select one or several towing and recovery service providers that best suits their needs. When selecting a service provider, review the network they serve. There may be instances where a fleet runs outside of the network, or a fleet may require a nationwide network to provide service.
During the event
Steps taken during an emergency service event can vary. It may be the vehicle is disabled on the roadside requiring a mobile maintenance call and quick service. As soon as the truck is disabled on the side of the road, so long as there is no imminent danger to the driver or other passengers, the driver should be sure to gather and place the appropriate safety equipment to alert other motorists.
Safety is imperative – for the driver, the tow or recovery expert, and any other individuals who may be on-hand during the response call. In much more challenging circumstances, the vehicle could be blocking traffic, leaking hazardous fluids, or have been part of an accident. In this instance, a tow or vehicle recovery may be necessary. A tow or recovery contractor responding to a service call requires as much information as possible to ensure a safe and quick response. photos from the scene can expedite the process of towing or recovery.
PICTURES ARE CRUCIAL
Training the fleet driver to take pictures and having an easy method to transfer them to the company official in charge of managing the response helps prepare the responders for what they will face long before they arrive on scene. These photos also help prepare an accurate picture for the insurance claims adjuster.
Law enforcement involvement
When law enforcement responds to an accident or a disabled vehicle blocking traffic, the fleet may no longer have a say in the towing or recovery service provider. Depending on the location of the incident, law enforcement may have a single provider for their jurisdiction or will rotate through a list of set providers. “When public safety becomes the issue, law enforcement generally will take the lead,” Resch says. “Any officer may make an estimated determination of danger and road blockage based on their experience and on-scene factors.” Examples of these factors may be a broken or damaged trailer, hazardous leaks, or an active fire. Additionally, if the law enforcement officer believes the crash may have been due to a driver’s poor decision or issues with the equipment, special towing services may be called. Ahead of the service, verify where the truck, trailer, and cargo will go after tow or recovery.
When the tow or recovery truck arrives, the driver of the disabled vehicle should provide the vehicle’s keys to the tow operator. In general, the driver should not assist with the towing hook-up process but still provide input and answer questions regarding what happened to the vehicle and the load details including items hauled and estimated weight of freight.
“It’s recommended that you contact your [insurance] agent beforehand to see what is and is not covered by your policy,” Resch advises. Once an incident does occur, the fleet must work with the tow service provider and the insurance company to alert both parties of the accident. providing an insurance claim number and the insurance agent’s contact information to the towing or recovery service provider. The fleet should also have the insurance provider send an estimator to the tow facility to assess damage and make arrangements to have the vehicle or debris removed from storage.
The cleanup process
For recovery requiring additional cleanup services, the process can become even more extensive. Some towing and recovery operations have certifications necessary to handle this. Otherwise, an additional service provider that specializes in environmental cleanup may be required. This certification is known as Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response Standard, or HAZWOPER. Additionally, this cleanup will be included on the itemized bill. Photo or video capturing capabilities may be employed to accompany the bill. It is important to note that a thorough cleaning is integral to the safety of the motoring public to avoid any secondary accidents from occurring, such as remnant or leftover fluids or debris which could cause follow-up crashes by other vehicles once the originating accident is cleared.
Understanding the invoicing
Towers and recovery companies have a responsibility to provide an itemized bill with clear and thorough descriptions of services rendered. Fleets should approach a dispute with courtesy and ask questions to get explanation or clarification on any unclear information. Towing and recovery service providers cannot provide an estimate for a job ahead of time, due to the many variables for any response situation.
However, a fleet can confirm the hourly rates and fees for some services such as lifting, up-righting, mobile service, tire changes, heavy winching, off-decking, etc. When questions arise or the fleet wishes to dispute a charge, they should remain calm and talk through any concerns. Note the itemized invoice may include separate billing for the tractor and the trailer load. When following up on a tow or recovery, ask for the invoice soon after the event. This can help to expedite the process and ensure both parties conduct a respectful transaction.