While a fleet safety program is crucial in setting a foundation for company safety culture, there needs to be a means to hold a driver accountable for it. And that is with a telematics solution. Without one, a fleet could face significant repair, workers’ comp, and liability claims.
New technologies to increase safety
While fleets continue adopting new technologies to improve safety, drivers remain the most significant variable in avoiding road danger. The National Safety Council (NSC) reports poor driving behavior results in high fatalities.
Preliminary estimates from the NSC report that roadway deaths in 2022 were down by 2% since 2021, though still 9% higher than in 2020. While the national numbers may be slightly down, ten states saw an increase in fatalities of at least 14%. They are:
- Alaska (+27%)
- Hawaii (+24%)
- Wyoming (+20%)
- Maine (+20%)
- New Hampshire (+19%)
- Delaware (+19%)
- Connecticut (+17%)
- Nebraska (+16%)
- Washington (+14%)
- Indiana (+14%)
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that traffic fatalities in 2021 occurred at a rate higher than any seen in the prior 16 years. In 2020, the NHTSA reported nearly 36 thousand police-reported vehicle crashes that involved fatalities, almost 1.6 million with injuries, and another 3.6 million that involved property damage only.
As drivers have direct control over their vehicles, they are at the forefront of keeping roads, vehicles, and people safe. Fleet safety policies must focus specifically on driving behavior to cut crash rates.
Cost Of Fleet Accidents
Various situations and factors can cause accidents. Aggressive driving, such as tailgating, speeding, weaving through traffic, and changing lanes without signaling, can increase the chances of a crash.
Distracted driving habits like talking on the phone, texting, or eating can similarly lead to a collision. The NSC estimates that 26% of all car crashes involve cell phones. Yet, the 26% statistic is most likely underestimated, as tracking cell phone usage while driving is difficult. Distracted driving will also become more complex as it evolves beyond using cell phones and texting.
Today’s drivers are equally distracted by navigation apps and other devices while behind the wheel. Worse, many individuals hold their smartphones while driving to allow them a better view of the screen. This divides attention between the device and the road while allowing the driver only one hand on the steering wheel. It can be a lethal combination.
Distracted driving promises to become more common as the next generation of employees joins the ranks of company drivers.
The commercial fleet annual accident rate is around 20%. Some industries, such as pharmaceuticals, have even higher rates.
One explanation for the high accident rate among fleet drivers is the number of miles they drive per year. Typically, non-fleet drivers in the U.S. travel 12,000 to 15,000 miles annually. A non-fleet driver has a one in 15 chance of a vehicle collision yearly. Most fleet drivers travel 20,000 miles or more each year, thus raising the chances of being involved in an accident.
The bottom line is that fleet vehicle crashes are among the most expensive injury claims for businesses.
The average cost of a loss related to fleet vehicle accidents is around $70,000, almost twice the cost of the average workplace injury claim.
Besides property damage, fleet crashes result in lost productivity, lost revenue from missed sales calls, deliveries, etc., and potential third-party liability claims. Since most companies self-insure fleet vehicles and their drivers, they pay these costs directly.
While a fleet safety program is crucial in setting a foundation for a company safety culture, there needs to be a means to hold a driver accountable. Problem behaviors to watch include:
- Hard cornering
- Rapid Acceleration
- Harsh Braking
Technology and Accountability
More than ever, fleets can turn to technology to improve the safety of their drivers — and yield improvements for their fleets, too.
Before the advent of telematics, holding drivers accountable for on-road actions or the fleet safety policy was difficult. At the time, fleet managers rarely had insight into driver behavior beyond what might be reported by other drivers on the road.
Today, technology is helping fleets focus more on safety and develop actionable plans based on accurate data specific to their operations. Specifically, telematics provides fleets the accountability to keep drivers and the public safe and costs low.
Investment in a quality telematics system is critical in this day and age. The proliferation of telematics solutions among fleets has been rising and will continue its upward trajectory as the technology grows and develops in terms of what it offers fleets.
A report from Mordor Intelligence predicts a compound annual growth rate for the commercial vehicle telematics industry of more than 15% between 2022 and 2027.
Telematics solutions typically provide feedback to drivers and alert fleet managers of poor driving behavior. Essentially, they put fleet managers inside the vehicle with drivers, allowing performance monitoring and the ability to quickly identify high-risk behaviors such as harsh braking, rapid acceleration, and speeding.
Typically, data related to safe driving practices are consolidated into a driver scorecard, which tallies scores for specific driving practices, then totals them for an overall driver rating.
With this data, fleet managers can engage drivers with coaching sessions via gamification — where fleets host safe driving competitions and reward drivers for their safe driving records. Several competition types can be organized, and rewards vary based on driver preferences — cash, gift cards, etc.
During these contests, it’s essential to include all drivers.
Fleet managers can also come up with creative approaches to gamification. For instance, try creating a Hall of Fame that publicly displays a monthly report on fleet driver safety improvements.
Another idea is to group drivers into teams that compete to have the fewest alerts each month, which helps drivers hold each other accountable.
Further, many telematics providers offer apps drivers can use to track their progress. When drivers are actively engaged, fleets will see measurable results fast.
A safety program is a foundation for keeping drivers safe and the company productive and profitable. But a safety program is only as good as drivers are accountable for it. Through technology such as telematics, fleets now can have near real-time insights into how their drivers are performing — and reward the best of the best drivers and coach those who don’t quite measure up.
The bottom line is that an accountable driver is a safe and productive driver. While it begins with a safety policy, it only can be enforced with a telematics solution.