Inside Risk: Dan Dillen, Ward Transport & Logistics Corp
With over 40 million miles covered each year, Ward Transport's director of risk management knows that safety on the road is no accident.
By Eric Gilkey
With 500+ trucks on the road running more than 40 million miles annually, Ward Transport & Logistics Corp. is necessarily focused on ensuring that its cargo arrives in the same manner it left—including its trucks and drivers. CLM Fellow Dan Dillen explains how he keeps his company’s risks from piling up.
Q. How did you find risk management?
A. I started with Ward in 1984, but it wasn’t until 1990 that I was approached by the company president with the opportunity, as there were several retirements taking place and the company had the desire and the need to create the risk management position. In that respect, I’ve been very fortunate to not only mold the position into its current role and status, but also to grow and expand my risk management knowledge and expertise along the way.
Q. What is your approach to risk management?
A. Risk management is about informed decision making. It’s thinking about the consequences of every action (or, equally important, every non-action), performing risk versus reward analyses, and using applied common sense.
Education is vital for a successful program. To aid in keeping risk management front and center at Ward, I started composing monthly “Risk Management 101” articles, which are distributed to all of our senior staff, managers, and supervisors. As an example, one is titled “Seven Dirty Words,” (with all due respect to the late George Carlin) and deals with hidden indemnification language or other risk transfer verbiage that our drivers may encounter under the guise of visitor passes, gate passes, or vehicle permits. For those who are wondering, the seven dirty words are: Release; Indemnify; Hold Harmless; Waive; Liability; and Negligence.
Communication is key on the claims side, as well. Our staff maintains regular communications with our injured employees, and I developed a state-specific workers’ comp FAQ mailer that we provide immediately to our injured employees in an effort to answer questions such as, “Where can I treat?” “How long until I get paid?” “How much will I get paid?” and “How does light duty work?” before they seek counsel to do the same. Workers’ compensation is an employee benefit—if it’s a legitimate claim, of course—and should be treated as such.
Q. What is your day-to-day life like?
A. Every day is different—for better and worse. It might consist of dealing with people and issues related to safety, claims, litigation management, insurance, contract management, finance, security, human resources, regulatory compliance, and the myriad of other “opportunities” found in the transportation industry.
Q. Describe some of the risks you manage. What is your biggest exposure?
A. The risk of a major accident is always at the forefront and in the back of one’s mind. However, the vast majority of our claims activity and exposures are on the workers’ compensation side. As with many other industries, one of our biggest exposures is our aging workforce. Ward is very fortunate in that it has a number of long-term, loyal, and very safe employees, but decades of driving and moving freight can take a physical toll on a person. Lift gates on trailers and pallet jacks that assist in moving freight help, but the fact remains that trucking is, and always will be, a very strenuous and physically demanding industry.
Q. Have you ever taken a risk and turned it into an opportunity?
A. Dealing with and working through the occasional tragic event is by far the most difficult and trying aspect of my job, but also it can be the most rewarding in a personal sense. When the rare fatality occurs—and sometimes against the advice of others—we reach out immediately to those involved simply because it’s the right thing to do. This goodwill and caring can go a long way in the claim’s aftermath and ultimate resolution, whether or not a claim or litigation is subsequently pursued. The company has received thank-you cards from families who were affected in tragic accidents, and I even had an opposing lawyer tell me that my contact with the family of the deceased was “one of the nicest things that I’ve ever seen anyone in the trucking community do.”
Q. What kinds of claims do you typically encounter? Can you discuss an interesting or unique claims experience?
A. The answer is that every claim is interesting in some sense, but, in reality, one has to keep in mind that every claim is important to the person involved. “Compassionate cynicism” is our approach. As for unique claims, suffice it to say that I’ve got a whole file drawer full of unique videos of claimants participating in extracurricular activities. We’ll leave it at that, for confidentiality reasons