When you’re managing a team of drivers, you have a lot on your plate.
You’re planning your day, making sure customers are happy, checking in on delivery status - it’s likely your focus is on solving today’s challenges vs. looking ahead.
Amidst all of the hustle, it’s important to make sure that you’re staying compliant, minimizing your risk, and doing what’s right for your business.
Read on as we weigh in on five legal tips to help you protect your last mile delivery business:
Know who you are hiring
- Why are background checks on drivers important? Ensure they have a valid driver's license that is appropriate for the vehicle they are driving (e.g. a CDL) and a reasonable driving record. As an employer, you are potentially liable for the actions of your employees. If an employee has a record of driving recklessly, and an employer hires them for a driving position, the employer (in some states) can be held liable.
- What can businesses be held liable for? Amongst other things, businesses are generally held liable for the actions of their employees under a doctrine called respondeat superior (Latin for "let the master answer"), a form of vicarious liability. This means that an employer can become liable for the actions of the employee (regardless of whether the employer gave permission).
The general considerations for determining whether the employer is responsible for the act of an employee are:
- Was the act committed during the course of the employees job?
- Was the act within the employee’s job duty?
- Did the employee, in any way, commit the act to benefit the employer?
Additional concerns, specific to last mile deliveries, are:
- Ensuring regulatory compliance--some violations carry steep penalties
- Ensuring safety of your drivers
- Ensuring the safety of whatever you are delivering
This, like all law, is state-specific, so check with your local attorney to see how this applies to you.
Be smart during tax season
Keep accurate and detailed records (and receipts) of business expenses and income. Consult with a CPA to determine whether you need to pay quarterly estimated tax and set up a plan to not fall behind.
Ensure your vehicles are properly maintained and inspected per your state’s requirements. Maintaining adequate business insurance is one of the most affordable and best decisions to protect your company, and, in some places, may be required.
Ensure that you are up to date on sales and use tax, state income tax, any applicable registrations or permits, and insurance requirements (including workers compensation insurance, required in many states).
Periodic drug screens of your employees can be beneficial (with caution--check with your local attorney to find out regulations around when you can or cannot drug test), as if they are under the influence while on the job, and you should have known, you could be held liable.
Handling customer data and information
When handling customer data, treat it with the utmost care. Never store credit card information in plain text and update yourself regularly on what PCI requirements your business must adhere to.
Licensing and permits
When you renew a license, make note of the renewal date and set a reminder a few months (depending on the type of permit) before so that you can remind yourself to renew it!
As with all things, make sure you find a small business attorney you can trust. When you sign a contract with a vendor, they can ensure that you are protected. You should also work with an attorney to develop a form agreement for your business to present to your customers. Periodically reviewing your hiring process with an employment attorney will also ensure you are compliant with your state’s employment laws.