Mann am Schriebtisch mit Laptop

Respondeat superior liability and accident prevention regulations – Duties of fleet management

Did you know the company is liable for all personal injuries and property damages occurring within the framework of fleet management? And for non-compliance of driver’s license check and lack of risk training? No? Then you need to get on it right away. This is because respondeat superior liability is an important issue in fleet management.

Although this term is not defined by law, it is used by courts to render a judgment and is therefore relevant to all fleet managers. The fundamental issue of respondeat superior liability is primarily concerned with who is ultimately responsible. Evidence for this can be obtained through the following questions, ia: Who bears the fixed costs, eg insurance? Who gets to write the vehicle off as a tax deduction? Who holds power of disposition?

What requirements must be met with regard to respondeat superior liability?

As a rule, the company that operates the vehicle fleet is ultimately subject to respondeat superior liability However, the management can transfer liability to other persons, such as a fleet manager, and thereby limit its own liability. (OWIG Sec.9, Cl.2, No.2 Acting on behalf of another) An effective delegation of respondeat superior liability also depends on whether the management, as the responsible entity, has expressly appointed a reliable, experienced and competent person to fulfill the duties related to respondeat superior liability while carrying out the responsibilities of his/her own position by instruction or the requirements laid out in the employment contract. For purposes of proof, this delegation should always be explicit and in writing.

Checklist – How respondeat superior liability works

In brief, the following must be observed when delegating respondeat superior liability:

  • It must be clear, unambiguous and in writing.
  • It must clearly specify all necessary tasks and competencies.
  • It may only be given to a steadfast person with professional experience.
  • Automatic delegation takes place only if the person concerned has performed these tasks for more than 5 years and/or is suitable to the position by his/her professional track record.

The delegation of this role to internal fleet managers, similar individuals or to external representatives is possible. As a rule, service providers are only willing to offer services without having to assume respondeat superior liability. Therefore, this is not relevant in practice. It is, however, customary among some companies, especially corporations, to operate their fleets using their own service provider or subsidiary. Such enterprises will assume respondeat superior liability for the vehicles used by the group. In this case, too, the management is the responsible entity that can in turn delegate this task to the employees in appropriate positions.

Hand mit Smartphone

Accident prevention regulations – Obligations shouldered by the fleet manager

The general duties and tasks of a managertasked with respondeat superior liability are:

  • acceptance and inspection of vehicles and vehicle documents
  • checking the physical fitness of the driver
  • checking the personal fitness of the driver
  • instructing the driver in the operation of the vehicle in professional and technical terms (eg clarification of relevant accident prevention regulations)
  • regular administration of the following checks: driving test, annual instruction of the driver, scheduled execution of the main inspections of the vehicle as well as exhaust emissions inspection, etc
  • inspection and maintenance of vehicles for operational and traffic safety, in particular with regard to brakes, tire treads and lights

These tasks can of course be outsourced to external service providers. The responsible to ensure inspection is carried out, however, falls on the individual tasked with respondeat superior liability.

In addition, general obligations of the users must be monitored:

  • personal fitness to drive a vehicle (driver’s license)
  • notification of changes to the driver’s license (driving ban, driving disqualification) to the fleet manager/supervisor
  • self-monitoring (getting medical exams/eye tests), legally prescribed checks (new driving license regulations)
  • compliance with road traffic regulations and other laws (German Social Accident Insurance, Regulation 70)
  • with every vehicle change, checking the special features of the vehicle with its particular adjustments
  • carrying and keeping of vehicle documents
  • before starting vehicle – checking vehicles for defects: proper loading, lights, braking response
  • if defects are detected – removal of the vehicle from road traffic, documentation of the defect in the event it occurs on the road
  • notification of accidents

Respondeat superior liability- so who is responsible?

Respondeat superior liability cannot be transferred to the driver, neither by the vehicle leasing contract, nor by company car guidelines or employment contract.

The person tasked with respondeat superior liability cannot release him/herself from liability. However. this person may transfer the liability or tasks, defined precisely herewith, to an appropriate third party.

Carano enables you to keep an eye on the particular dangers of respondeat superior liability and, in the worst case, to present complete documentation. Appointments for the main inspection, manufacturer maintenance and accident prevention regulations can be entered into the system so that important tasks need no longer be overlooked or missed. Your obligations taken care of – you’ll enjoy a peace of mind.