The one thing every truck driver wants to avoid is an accident. In any vehicle, a crash can be terrifying and stressful, but an 80,000lb lump of metal with heavy goods in the back, travelling at speed and 18 wheels make it a lot more dangerous and can be career – not to mention life – ending. Your employer should provide you with training and information about the protocol to follow if you are involved in a crash because immediately after a situation like that occurs, drivers are more likely to be unsettled an anxious, and the steps that need to be taken are often far from their mind. but If you are a truck driver and are unlucky enough to be involved in an accident, here are a few things you should try to bear in mind in terms of what you should and shouldn’t do immediately afterwards.
What to do after an accident: tips & advice for truck drivers
Stay calm: All sorts of things will be rushing through your head, so it is easier said than done but stay calm. The most important thing is that you, and anyone else involved in the accident, is ok and can get out of the vehicles and away from the immediate scene safely. If you are faced with someone who is aggressive and angry, do not respond in anger or even tell them to calm down, as you may risk escalating the situation further. Instead, allow the police and relevant authorities to deal with the situation. If they have yet to arrive, calmly walk away and concentrate on following the accident protocol that your employers should have set out. Take deep breaths, and relax your shoulder muscles. This will help you to collect your thoughts and remain focused.
Do not apologize to anyone: This is absolutely crucial. Even if you believe you may have been at fault, do not say ‘I’m sorry.’ Apologizing is often an automatic response to dealing with something stressful and is how we show understanding and compassion. However, in the event of a crash, these two simple words can be held against you and used as an admission of guilt.
Exchange information and witness details: If it is a severe accident, law enforcement should be contacted so they can come and investigate, but if there is no need for them to attend, you need to make sure that you swap details with other parties – you need to take their full name, address and contact telephone number, insurance company details and employer contact information if appropriate. If there are people around who have witnessed the accident, collect their details as these may come in useful when it comes to appropriating blame and finding out what caused the crash. If necessary, take a photo of their license plates. Do not spend too much time with any particular witness, as that could be seen in court as an attempt to persuade them to speak favorably on your behalf. Their details are all you need at this point.
Secure the scene: If you are able to, secure the scene as quickly as you can, to prevent further accidents or injuries and stop any potential liability issues. Put reflectors out if it is safe and they are accessible along the highway. However, do not move the vehicle at all, unless directed by law enforcement.
Review the accident: If you are waiting for the police to arrive, calmly sit and go through the events leading up to the crash and what happened in your head. If you have paper and a pen to hand, jot down some notes while it is still crystal clear in your mind. The date and time, and location of the accident should be noted, as well as the position of the vehicles involved, weather and traffic conditions, and any other factors that may be pertinent to the accident
Take photos: If you have a phone with a camera feature, as most of us do these days, take pictures, even if any damage appears to be minor. If you can, turn the time stamp feature on and take photos from as many different angles and from all sides of the vehicle, both of your truck and any others involved. Take close-ups of damage, but include something in the picture to indicate the size of what you’re attempting to document. Panoramic photos of the scene can also be incredibly useful, as it can help to identify witnesses or other details that you may not be aware of at the time. In this very vein, make sure that if a dash-cam is fitted to your truck, you recover the footage as soon as possible and hand it over to the authorities dealing with the accident.
Seek medical advice: It is really important to seek out medical attention after an accident, even if you do not think that you are injured. Sometimes shock and adrenaline can stop us feeling pain immediately, and only later on do any injuries become apparent. Common injuries from road traffic accidents include those to the neck and back, which can be dangerous if not seen to and treated. Not seeking treatment may also hinder your ability to seek compensation in the future should you need to.
Only discuss the accident with the relevant authorities: This is linked to the ‘do not apologize’ point we made above. If you talk about it with other people, you may find yourself being blamed for the accident or events and recollections of the crash being twisted or wrongly reported. Instead, wait for the law enforcement to come to you and talk only to them. State the facts alone, and consider each sentence and phrase very carefully before you say them. This is the point where both you and the other parties involved in the collision need to think about a decent accident attorney, who will be able to advise you on what to say and what not to say, and the steps involved in an investigation. If it does need to go to court, they will be able to give you up to date legal advice. It is also essential that you do not talk to the media before you have sought legal advice and do not post any information about the accident on your social media, even if you think you have a private account.
Notify your company: Obviously, this is a pretty significant step so they can take measures to come and recover you if necessary and let the rest of the chain know what is happening. Keep your explanation of the accident brief and to the point, as you can go into further detail at a later point – and remember, DO NOT ADMIT BLAME. Any notes or phone recordings that your employer makes regarding the crash may be used as evidence, so think very carefully about what you say.
After the accident: Once you have been checked for injuries, and an investigation into the accident has been done, look at what steps can be put into place to prevent a similar accident from happening in the future. Was it down to a fault in a vehicle, or driver error? Can any additional training be offered, or time constraints for deliveries relaxed a little? It is also a good time for your employer to look at their accident protocol and update it if necessary.