Are Employer Charge Backs in Massachusetts Legal or Not?

As the owner of a moving and storage company, you know that it is important to stay on top of your drivers and make sure all is running smoothly. However, there may occasionally be a time when a driver is involved in an accident that causes damage to one of your moving trucks. You may end up charging employees back for the damages but on January 25th, 2011, the MA Supreme Court made a decision that may impact the way you handle this issue.

You may look to us to be your movers insurance experts, but we also can help educate you about human resource decisions that impact the way you do business. This blog will discuss charging back an employee’s wages for anything you think they may be responsible for, whether they signed a statement agreeing to the charge back as part of their employment or not. Pay close attention to this scenario:

In this case, the employer is ABC Disposal Service Inc.  ABC’s drivers are occasionally involved in accidents that lead to the damage of ABC’s trucks. In an effort to reduce the number of accidents caused by employees, ABC adopted a policy: Drivers that are involved in an at-fault accident were given two options:

#1: Accept disciplinary accident; or

#2: Incurring a debt to the company for amount of damage and paying that debt as a charge back to their wages.

Ultimately, the ABC safety officer made the determination of fault. After reviewing reports, the officer determined whether the damage caused by the employee was a preventable accident.

When this policy was challenged in court, the court held that a debt could ONLY be established by a court process or other means. During that process the employee must be afforded due process and allowed to participate in the fact finding effort to determine fault.

Are you an employer with policies that are similar to that of ABC’s? Do you charge back your employee’s for lost cell phones, tools, hand dolly’s, carts or other employer provided items? If so, this decision may require changes in YOUR policies moving forward. At Wolpert Insurance, we are here to help! We stay on top of these decisions so you do not have to. Have us provide a free examination of your movers insurance policies today and see what we find!

Set Your Rules: Your Tariff Should Address the Following Items

If you are the owner of a moving and storage company, you know you have a unique set of responsibilities. Your job description is filled with a variety of duties, from training drivers and employees to choosing reliable movers insurance to putting together tariff rules.

Speaking of tariff rules, have you already put together a rules section? Having a set of rules accompanying your schedule of rates and charges is important; if you have no rules, you may find yourself in legal trouble down the line.

Your tariff rules and rates should comply with MDPU format rules published in Code of Massachusetts Regulations (CMR), title 220 CMR section 260. Your tariff SHOULD address the following (at least):

•    Application of Tariff

•    Advancing charges or fees on behalf of the customer

•    Binding estimate

•    Complete article

•    Declaration of value

•    Perishable articles

•    Waiting time

•    Inspection of articles

•    Claims for loss or damage

•    Exclusive use of vehicle

•    Depreciation

•    Articles of extraordinary value

•    Declaration of excess value

•    Transport of frozen foods

•    Required written declaration of explosive and dangerous articles

•    Hoisting or lowering

•    Movers insurance coverage

•    Dismantling and reassembly of articles

•    Pick up from or delivery to warehouse

•    Bill of lading terms and conditions

•    Dangerous articles that you will not accept for transportation

•    Computing time

•    Impractical or impossible operation, pick up, delivery of or auxiliary services

•    Furnishing of helpers

•    Minimum charges

•    Estimates, required to be written

•    Inventory rejected by shipper

•    Articles likely to damage carrier’s equipment

•    Articles likely to injure carrier’s personnel or property of other customers

•    Listing and explanation of holidays

•    Limitation of carrier’s liability

•    Special servicing of property

•    Making or tagging articles, items or boxes

•    Property subject to bill of lading

•    And much more…

Without these rules, you may find yourself in trouble if a lawsuit or issue should arise. Do you really want a judge to decide what the rules are? We didn’t think so!

At Wolpert Insurance, we want to make sure you are protected from legal issues. Be sure to grab a free movers insurance quote from us. We can provide your company with protection such as general liability, warehouse legal liability, workers compensation, umbrella insurance and much more!

ATTENTION CMV DRIVERS: Safety Tips When Backing Up, Part 2

Last week, we discussed the top 10 safety tips to consider while backing up your vehicle. As the owner of a moving and storage company, you should educate your workers on this procedure and the techniques required for safe backing. Training and educating your drivers is an important part of the job, just as important as it is to have movers insurance in place for the worst case scenario.

This week, we want to discuss the importance of having a spotter or guide, as well as the use of cones.

The number one safety tip is to always have a spotter/guide. It is important to:

•    Find a reliable and qualified guide

•    Agree on hand signals with your guide

•    Turn off your radio, avoid distractions and open your window

•    Keep your guide in sight at all times

If a guide is not possible, you should refer back to the top 10 tips from last week’s post! Also, if you do not have a guide, it is best to use cones. Cones can mark the specific location where you are backing up and provide warning to any traffic or pedestrians in the area.

We hope that you have found these safety tips helpful. At Wolpert Insurance, we want to make sure your company does not have to face an unnecessary issue or lawsuit. This is exactly why we are here to provide your business will a unique and comprehensive movers insurance program. Your coverage can include general liability, motor truck cargo, warehouse legal liability, workers compensation and much more. We would be happy to provide you with a free quote!

ATTENTION CMV DRIVERS: Safety Tips When Backing Up, Part 1

As the owner of a moving and storage company, you should never hesitate to speak about safety and cautious driving to your commercial vehicle drivers.  Operating such a large vehicle can be a hassle sometimes, especially when backing up. Did you know that 90% of trucking incidents and crashes happen during backing maneuvers?

While having reliable movers insurance in place will make a liability claim easier to deal with, it is best to avoid a backing accident as best as possible. Drivers should have the right skills and use extra care and caution when backing. Here are 10 safety tips to consider while doing so:

1.    Perform a walk-around check.

2.    Look up, down and at fixed objects.

3.    Pay close attention to any pedestrian traffic. Make sure they are at a safe distance from your vehicle.

4.    Adjust your mirrors and check side clearances.

5.    Use your four-way flashers.

6.    Plan your course and move slowly. Going slow will keep you in control of your vehicle and allow you to gauge your distances.

7.    Constantly check all sides as you back up.

8.    Keep your eyes moving to ensure conditions have not changed since your last glance.

9.    Understand that your mirrors only show you a small portion of the total picture.

10.    For extra caution, stop 3/4 of the way, set the brake, get out and look around.

If you or your drivers are not cautious during this common maneuver, you may be facing a liability suit sooner than later. At Wolpert Insurance, we do not want to see your company struggle if this incident becomes a reality. Allow us to provide your moving and storage company with the proper movers insurance policies, from general liability to owner operator coverage.

Be sure to come back next week for more information on using cones to block off pedestrian traffic and the importance of using a spotter!

ATTENTION: New Hours of Service Rules for July 2013!

As a professional in the moving and storage company, you are aware that rules and regulations are constantly changing. Whether there are changes in your movers insurance policy or cell phone bans, your business should always be aware. At Wolpert Insurance, we like to help make that possible by keeping you updated on the latest news and changes! This time around, there will be new hours of service rules starting July 2013.

As the mandatory compliance date nears, there will be more news and guidance. However, for now it is important to be prepared for the following:

•    Drivers MUST have a minimum of 30 minutes off duty or sleeper berth break for every eight hours on the road in order to continue driving.

•    Drivers may ONLY utilize the 34 hour restart once every seven days.

•    The off duty period must include at least two periods between 1:00 am and 5:00 am home terminal time.

•    Your company will be subject to maximum federal civil penalties if drivers are driving three or more hours past the driving-time limit. This is considered a violation.

For more important news and updates for your company and drivers, be sure to visit the Fleet Safety page.

Those who are concerned about their coverage can turn to us at Wolpert Insurance. It is just as important to be protected as it is to be aware of new rules and regulations. We would be happy to discuss the movers insurance options we can offer your moving and storage company, whether you are looking for warehouse legal insurance, motor truck cargo, general liability, umbrella insurance or all of the above!