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Career-Altering Accidents

Jan 31, 2013 - 6 years ago

By Supply Post

By Kathryn Thorpe Klassen

By very nature of the trucking business, it can be hard to avoid accidents altogether. Kudos to those drivers who manage to get through their careers with impressive safety records, but it isn’t always as easy as they may make it look.

You may be the best driver in the world, but the fact is, you have to drive on public roads every day and there are a lot of drivers out there who aren’t as careful as you may be.

Even a simple fender bender can turn making a living in the trucking business into a nightmare. A secure job can turn into the unemployment line if your employer deems it a safety violation that hurts their company’s reputation or their insurance rates.

Preventable accidents are the ones that will haunt you when it comes to your career, so they are the ones you need to avoid. Accidents are differentiated between preventable and non-preventable in order to fairly judge a driver’s and company’s safety record, and are often used to determine bonuses and other incentives.

One or more preventable accidents on your record or in your employee file may prevent you from landing your dream job, or even lead to your dismissal from your current one. Should you have a preventable accident, however, it does not necessarily have to mean the end of your career.

Ben Klassen was fired from his job after what was deemed a ‘preventable incident’. “I was in a customer’s yard where I had to back around a corner to the dock. The yard guy was waving me back, guiding me in. For some reason he forgot about the street light back there and I ran it over.”

Because Ben did not get out and look at the layout for himself multiple times as he was backing up, the company labeled it ‘preventable’ and it cost him the job he’d been at for five years. The repair bill, covered by insurance, was over $3,000. It took Ben eight months to convince another, much smaller carrier to hire him.

If you are fired from a company due to an accident or other safety violation, you may have to rethink the type of trucking you do. Working locally — hauling dirt, rocks or gravel — may be one of your best options. It keeps you behind the wheel and gives you a chance to start rebuilding your safety record.

The jobs available to a driver with a poor safety record will likely not pay as well as well as you may be used to. But if you are lucky you may find a small company with a handful of trucks who is willing to give you a chance.

Speak to your insurance company. There may be something you can do to help reduce your rates and improve your record. Taking defensive driving courses and other remedial training may show potential employers that you are serious about getting back on track.

A serious accident involving injury or death may not be as easy to recover from. In 1989, Carl Vanderhoof was in a serious accident. Although he was not deemed at fault in the crash, it nonetheless ended his driving career.

“I still have the odd nightmare about it, almost a decade and a half later. I just can’t get it out of my head,” says Carl. The accident happened on a little traveled secondary highway near Grande Prairie, Alberta. A sedan carrying a mother and a child lost control on black ice and careened into the path of Carl’s long-nose Peterbilt.

“There was no where to go, and no time to react. I wasn’t travelling fast because the highway was slick.” Both the mother and child were killed in the crash. Carl was left unharmed, protected by the weight and size of his semi.

“I’ll never forget the look on that woman’s face. I could see it clearly just before the impact,” said Carl. “And that’s why I’ll never drive a truck again. I never want to see that look ever again, and not driving is the only way I can guarantee that.”

If asked for one piece of advice that Carl would give to anyone else unfortunate enough to be in a similar situation, he says. “Talk to someone. Get it out. I didn’t go to counselling until three years after the accident. I wish I had gone sooner; maybe I’d still have my career.”

Whether it’s speed, failing to yield, inattentiveness, distraction, lack of communication or something else, there are dozens of reasons that you can be found at fault in an accident. As a professional driver it is up to you to remain alert and prepared for all circumstances you may find yourself in. Stay safe and aware whenever you are on the road.

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