Chevrolets and chardonnays

Wine on barrel 7 things you can do to better manage your winery’s auto exposure

There was a television commercial a number of years ago where the owner of a famous donut shop was so frazzled going back and forth getting the donuts made that he ran into a clone of himself coming in the door as he was leaving out the door to go to work. With all of the growing, harvesting, grape crushing, fermenting, ageing and packaging – how many of you have felt the same way? There certainly is a lot to do and manage in the winemaking business, isn’t there?

With all you have to think about, how many of you have given much attention to managing your driver safety exposures? You’re not alone. Driver risks are a significant loss exposure for wineries – one that is often overlooked. Vehicle crashes unfortunately are on the rise – and jury verdicts for those found at fault are reaching amounts never before considered. Are you doing anything to manage these often unnoticed risks for your winery? Or are you merely telling your employees to “Be safe out there!” as you hand them keys to your vehicles?

There are a number of things you can do and best practices you can use to lessen your exposure to this potentially serious risk. How many of these strategies are you using?

  1. Do you demonstrate management support for safe driving?
  2. Do you have a driver selection process?
  3. Do you evaluate your drivers?
  4. Do you have written driver safety policies and procedures?
  5. Do you have driver orientation and training programs?
  6. Do your drivers know what to do if they are in an accident?
  7. Do you have inspection and maintenance procedures defined?

Yes, there can be quite a few things to help manage your driver exposures, but in the long run they can help you avoid needless injuries and losses.

Management support

As an old saying goes – “if it’s not important to you, it won’t be important to your employees”. There are a number of ways that you can demonstrate the importance of driver safety to you and your winery:

  • Do you have a clearly written driver safety policy with standard driver operating procedures?
    • Has it been reviewed by legal counsel for conformance to accepted legal procedures?
    • Is it consistently enforced?
    • Is it distributed to all employees?
    • Do all employees sign an acknowledgement that they will follow all these rules?
    • Do you hold all drivers accountable for their driving and any accidents sustained?
  • Is someone assigned to oversee driver safety?
  • Do you routinely include driver safety topics at employee meetings?
Selecting your drivers

Having a meaningful driver selection process is an important part of managing your winery’s driving exposure. By having a good process in place, you can help avoid future losses from accidents and vehicle abuse. Have you included these practices in your selection process?

  • Use of defined criteria (in writing) to select your drivers?
  • Do these criteria include:
    • Background checks
    • Drug screening
    • A review of past work records
    • A 3-year review of each person’s MVR (Motor Vehicle Record) to rule out any disqualifying offenses
  • Do you stipulate that failure to participate in MVR screening could result in denial of employment, loss of employment or loss of driving privileges?
Driver Evaluation

Even though most of your employees can probably drive, determining which candidates are acceptable is important in managing your driving risks. Do you:

  • Verify their drivers’ license is valid and current in their state of residence.
  • Hire only experienced drivers with a minimum of 2 years driving experience
  • Check references provided
  • Know if candidates have the ability to understand both oral and written instructions?
  • Disqualify drivers with three (3) or more violations in 3 years
  • Disqualify drivers with two (2) or more preventable accidents* in 3 years.
  • Require compliance with a drug & alcohol testing program
  • Disqualify any driver convicted of any alcohol or drug related offences.
  • Maintain an up to date list of authorized drivers
  • Have a procedure to assure your drivers maintain an acceptable MVR during their employment.
Written policies and procedures

In today’s business environment, you can serve your winery well by documenting how you expect your business to be run and how you expect your drivers to operate. Does your documentation include?

  • A written driver safety program with:
    • Requirements for 100% seat belt use?
    • Rules prohibiting distracted driving?
    • Reporting rules for any moving violations?
    • Rules on permitted use of winery vehicles?
  • Is your program written in a clear and concise manner?
  • Are these rules readily available and easy to obtain in an organized, neat and easy to use format?
  • Do you assure that all drivers are thoroughly familiar with the rules and is their knowledge tested? Do drivers sign an acknowledgement confirming they will follow all these rules?
  • Are your rules vigorously enforced?
Orientation and training

Driver training presents some great opportunities for your winery to better manage your driving exposures.

  • In order to be effective, training should:
    • Be recurring
    • Use a variety of methods to communicate your information
      • daily 5-minute safety talks
      • posters
      • paycheck stuffers
      • safety meetings
      • training videos
    • Routinely reinforce safe driving practices
    • Be both informal (short talks at the beginning of a shift) and more formal (classroom) in nature
    • Select topics and organize content ahead of time
    • Test employees on what was covered. Results should be documented and in each drivers file
    • Follow a checklist to assure all topics are consistently covered
    • Include defensive driving
    • Include what is considered distracted driving
    • Require mandatory attendance and document each driver’s file
    • Utilize driver trainers along with monitored probationary periods for all new hires
Incident reporting

Do your drivers know what to do (and what not to do) in the event of an accident? An improper statement immediately following an accident could make your winery liable. It is important that you establish procedures that inform your drivers how to properly respond in the event of an accident. You may want to consider obtaining legal advice to document how your drivers are expected to respond immediately after an accident. Drivers should know:

  • How to respond to any immediate concerns
  • When they should notify someone
  • Who they should call
  • Who they should talk with
  • What they should say (or not say)
  • What information they should gather
  • Are there any additional steps they should take

Consider having a checklist for your drivers to guide them through the proper steps expected of them in the event of an incident. By having all the proper procedures (and training) in place before an accident, your winery and your drivers are more apt to respond properly to an accident and not react in a way that could have a detrimental impact on your winery.

Inspections and maintenance

“What gets inspected gets dealt with” is a management saying often stated and one that may serve your winery well. Properly inspected and maintained vehicles have a much greater chance of operating correctly than vehicles that are neglected. It is important for you to have confidence in your equipment. Steps your winery can take in this regard include:

  • Training drivers how to do a thorough inspection
  • Making sure all vehicles are Inspected (in writing) prior to use
  • Having repairs and maintenance issues remedied as promptly as needed
  • Having all physical damage reported to supervisory management
  • In the event of a breakdown or weather related condition, assuring your drivers know who to notify for assistance
  • Having all repairs completed by licensed shop/mechanic
  • Having a licensed mechanic/shop inspect each vehicle on an annual basis
  • Having all vehicles receive periodic scheduled maintenance; document this in each vehicle file
  • Keeping maintenance files for each vehicle for a minimum of two years
  • Completing preventative maintenance within vehicle guidelines and the manufacturer’s recommendations

Having well-maintained vehicles will give your winery the confidence that your vehicles are as they should be and not the cause of an incident due to a mechanical failure.


Implementing these kind of strategies effectively for your winery will get you off to a great start in managing your driving exposures. As a manager, you have a responsibility to your employees, your customers, and the general public to know who is driving and that they meet the driver guidelines you’ve established. You have a responsibility to implement sound business procedures. Train your drivers so they know and can follow your procedures safely, and assure that the vehicles you have on the road are safe and well maintained.

There may be other components that will also help in managing your winery’s driving exposures. You should also consider talking to your insurance agent to discuss your specific circumstances and what else you might do to lessen your driving risks.

*A preventable accident is any traffic accident which results in property damage and/or personal injury, regardless of who is injured, what property was damaged, to what extent, or where it occurred, in which the driver in question failed to exercise every reasonable precaution or action to avoid the accident. Driving to avoid preventable accidents is defensive driving. The fact that the driver was not charged with a traffic violation by law enforcement is not part of this definition. (Derived from the National Safety Council DDC-4 Guide)
**The National Safety Council defines defensive driving as “driving to save lives, money and time, in spite of the conditions around you and the actions of others.”

Wine on barrel
This document is intended for general information purposes only, and should not be construed as advice or opinions on any specific facts or circumstances. The content of this document is made available on an “as is” basis, without warranty of any kind. This document can’t be assumed to contain every acceptable safety and compliance procedures or that additional procedures might not be appropriate under the circumstances. Markel does not guarantee that this information is or can be relied on for compliance with any law or regulation, assurance against preventable losses, or freedom from legal liability. This publication is not intended to be legal, underwriting, or any other type of professional advice. Persons requiring advice should consult an independent adviser. Markel does not guarantee any particular outcome and makes no commitment to update any information herein, or remove any items that are no longer accurate or complete. Furthermore, Markel does not assume any liability to any person or organization for loss of damage caused by or resulting from any reliance placed on that content.

*Markel Specialty is a business division of Markel Service, Incorporated, the underwriting manager for the Markel affiliated insurance companies.
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