Improving Operations After a Catastrophic Loss

injured truck driver

Every motor carrier operates in a challenging environment that exposes it to the risk of a catastrophic loss. Serious injuries, loss of life, and high-dollar claims are just one crash away. Yet, even with this awareness, many motor carriers are ill-prepared for what follows that dreaded phone call informing them that one of their drivers has been involved in a critical crash.

Financially surviving the “big one” is certainly a risk that must be managed proactively, but what is often overlooked is how a motor carrier’s leadership team will respond to the emotional hardship that a catastrophic event can have on the organization. As employees process and cope with the loss, especially if fatalities are involved, they must also deal with the intense scrutiny that accompanies a post-crash investigation. From top to bottom, the entire organization will be under an intense microscope as the search for the root cause begins.

Catastrophic losses have the potential to negatively or positively impact a person’s psychological wellbeing. A truck driver may quit the profession following a bad wreck, while others may use it as a source of renewed professionalism, meaning he or she recommits to the protective driving techniques that can help prevent a future occurrence. Using a catastrophic loss to change for the better is an example of post-traumatic growth (PTG)*, which is different from resilience. “Resiliency is the personal attribute or ability to bounce back,” says Kanako Taku (Collier, 2016). “PTG, on the other hand, refers to what can happen when someone who has difficulty bouncing back experiences a traumatic event that challenges his or her core beliefs, endures psychological struggle (even a mental illness such as post-traumatic stress disorder), and then ultimately finds a sense of personal growth.”

Post-traumatic growth takes time and energy to achieve. Whether it is personal growth or organizational growth, recognizing the need for improvement following a catastrophic loss is one thing, but making it happen is another. Change will not happen overnight. In an organization, post-traumatic growth may require a complete culture shift, starting with a declaration by senior leadership that these types of losses will not be tolerated.

Change also requires a top-to-bottom analysis of the company’s processes and procedures to identify leading indicators, or warning signs, that a systemic problem may exist. If an operational change is not made to address these warning signs (like driver quality), then there is an increased likelihood that another catastrophic loss could occur.

Motor carriers should not wait for a traumatic event to start the growth process. The odds of a catastrophic event can certainly be reduced by proactively managing operational risks. This is the goal behind Great West’s Value-Driven® Company products. Integrating safety with every job and taking the necessary steps to manage risks will better position motor carriers to survive losses and keep the wheels turning.

Call to Action

  • Identify hazards that expose the company to potential losses.
  • Use a risk matrix to rate the severity and probability of the hazards identified.
  • Determine which risks are unacceptable.
  • Create an action plan to eliminate or avoid the unacceptable risks.


Source: Collier, L. (2016). Growth after trauma.
Monitor on Psychology. 
Retrieved from

*Post-traumatic growth is a theory developed by psychologists Richard Tedeschi, PhD, and Lawrence Calhoun, PhD.

The information in this article is provided as a courtesy of Great West Casualty Company and is part of the Value-Driven® Company program. Value-Driven Company was created to help educate and inform insureds so they can make better decisions, build a culture that values safety, and manage risk more effectively. To see what additional resources Great West Casualty Company can provide for its insureds, please contact your safety representative, or click below to find an agent. 

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© Great West Casualty Company 2018. The material in this publication is the property of Great West Casualty Company unless otherwise noted and may not be reproduced without its written consent by any person other than a current insured of Great West Casualty Company for business purposes. Insured should attribute use as follows: “© Great West Casualty Company 2018. Used with permission by Great West Casualty Company.”

This material is intended to be a broad overview of the subject matter and is provided for informational purposes only. Great West Casualty Company does not provide legal advice to its insureds, nor does it advise insureds on employment-related issues. Therefore, the subject matter is not intended to serve as legal or employment advice for any issue(s) that may arise in the operations of its insureds. Legal advice should always be sought from the insured’s legal counsel. Great West Casualty Company shall have neither liability nor responsibility to any person or entity with respect to any loss, action, or inaction alleged to be caused directly or indirectly as a result of the information contained herein.