Risky Business: Stuck trucks and equipment run amok
02/01/2013

In the past, this column has occasionally highlighted ridiculous claims that led to lawsuits filed against rental stores. This time, we present a few claims of the “truth can be stranger than fiction” variety.

One rental store rented a forklift to its customer and delivered the equipment to the specified location. The customer was on hand to sign for the rented equipment. The forklift was due to be returned a couple of days later. When the rental store had not heard from the customer, the customer was called by phone and, after many attempts were unsuccessful, a driver was sent to the delivery location. The driver was informed by witnesses in the area that the address had been the subject of a drug raid conducted by the police department the day after the machinery was delivered. The renter was in jail and that was why they were not able to reach him by phone.

The equipment was nowhere to be found. The police department verified that the equipment was there on the day of the raid. Apparently the gate to the fence surrounding the property was closed, but not locked by the police after the raid, and the equipment had been stolen.

Another rental store suffered a fluke accident that involved its delivery truck. One morning the loaded truck became stuck on some railroad tracks. No one was exactly sure how it happened, but the truck was not moving from smack in the middle of the tracks. The only train that traveled through town was not scheduled to arrive until 4 p.m., several hours away.

The delivery driver called his manager and another truck was dispatched to the scene. The items were off-loaded from the stuck truck onto another vehicle for delivery. As the heavy load was removed from the truck, it became disentangled from the track. However, the driver had failed to put the vehicle in park or to set the emergency brake — he had only turned the engine off. The newly freed truck
rolled from the track, down a slight embankment and into a tree. The damage to the front of the vehicle was quite extensive, but not nearly as bad as if the loaded truck had been struck by a passing train.

One rental store’s claim involved three vehicles and a pole. An employee driving a pickup was making a right turn and cut the turn too closely, scraping up against a pole. In an attempt to correct his error, he backed up to put his truck back on the roadway and complete his turn. He did not check his mirror or look behind his truck to see that another vehicle was in that lane, also making a right turn. When the pickup driver backed into the roadway, he hit the car, causing it to stop suddenly. When this happened, a third vehicle rear-ended the second one sandwiching it between the two vehicles. The force of the collision pushed the second vehicle back into the pickup truck and the pickup truck went back into the pole, this time at a slightly different angle.

Then there is the claim that involves a mini Ferris wheel. A rental store was contracted to deliver the Ferris wheel to the fairgrounds just outside of town. The driver didn’t often travel this highway, but was familiar with the location. He loaded up the Ferris wheel and secured it properly. He made sure he had a clear sight line and verified that the load didn’t overhang his trailer in any direction. The one thing he forgot to check was the height of the Ferris wheel once it was in place. As he travelled down the road, he came upon a bridge just before his turn-off. The height of the Ferris wheel on the trailer was greater than the clearance space under the bridge. The Ferris wheel slammed into the side of the bridge and was heavily damaged. Because of the construction of the wheel, there was no damage to the bridge.

Each of these rental stores was made whole by their insurance company, less their deductibles where applicable.

Mary Ann Gormly, CERP, is risk management coordinator for ARA Insurance, Kansas City, Mo. For more information, call 800-821-6580 or visit ARAinsure.com.