According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, there are more than 8,600 fleet vehicles on the road across the United States. The annual accident rate for commercial fleets is about 20%. Sadly, there were over 2,000 work-related fatal transportation incidents in 2017, which represented about 40% of occupational fatalities that year. These are staggering statistics for anyone involved with the management of a commercial fleet.
When a fleet vehicle is involved in an accident, no matter how minor or major, there are a number of hassles you will have to deal with afterward. In addition to the direct cost of the accident and any vehicle damage, you will also have to deal with lost productivity, lost revenue from missed customer appointments, and possibly third-party claims from anyone else involved in the incident. Automotive Fleet Magazine estimates the cost of a fleet vehicle accident is roughly $70,000 – at least double the cost of other workplace injuries.
If you manage a fleet, the last thing you want is for your drivers to be involved in an accident. But with the number of hours any professional driver spends on the road, it may be not a matter of if, but when. So should you just succumb to the inevitable? Of course not! There are ways to lower your drivers’ chances of an incident, and ways to reduce the costs and challenges you may face after an accident.
True Costs of Accidents
The truth is, more miles on the road means more exposure to hazards and a greater chance of collision. Since most fleet drivers cover 20,000-25,000 miles a year, they’re more likely to be involved in accidents and crashes. When you add in the weight of many commercial vehicles and its impact on stopping distance, plus driver fatigue after hours on the road, it’s easy to see how commercial vehicles have an increased accident risk.
While promoting a culture of safety in your fleet is certainly helpful, it can’t prevent all accidents. Sometimes another driver on the road may cause the accident. Other times it can be caused by hazardous road conditions or dangerous weather. So it’s important for all fleet managers to be prepared for accidents and their costs.
The first cost you will have to consider is vehicle damage. This cost can vary, depending on the amount of damage sustained, but most of the expense should be covered by your commercial vehicle insurance. This could, however, mean a raise in insurance premiums going forward, especially if your fleet is involved in several accidents within a short time frame.
The next cost to consider is that of lost productivity. While your driver is dealing with the accident itself, even if there was no damage to the vehicle, they can’t be going about their daily business. If there’s an injury to your driver, they may be unable to return to work for a while, depending on the severity of the injury. Truly severe accidents, the kind we all hope never to see, may mean your driver does not return at all.
Next is the lost revenue from missed customer appointments. If a vehicle is out of commission for a few days while repairs are handled, you may have to reschedule a number of appointments. You may also have lost revenue if your vehicle’s cargo is damaged or if your vehicles are hauling equipment used to perform your main business function.
Finally, you must consider the possibility of third-party claims. These costs can be enormous, and may not be immediately known. If another driver is involved in an accident with one of your fleet vehicles, you may be notified of their medical bills even years after the incident.
When you add all this up, the average cost of an accident with a fleet vehicle is $70,000. And that doesn’t even include the potential loss of clients or employees and the cost of finding replacements. Then there’s the human cost. There’s been a marked increase in vehicle crash deaths, up to approximately 40,000 in 2017. This is due to a number of factors including distracted driving and increased speed limits across our highways.
What To Do After An Accident
The first thing for drivers to remember is to be prepared. They should have several items on hand and ready to go at all times, in case of an accident. These include:
- Drivers license
- Road flares/cones
- Medical alert info detailing any condition or allergy (This may be vital in case of serious injury.)
- First aid kit
- Tool kit for basic repairs (e.g., a blown tire)
- Accident report form
Next, here are the steps your driver should take:
1.Call for medical assistance/police
2. Do not admit fault
3. Call employer
4. Document accident
- Get details of any other driver(s)
- Descriptions of vehicles/injuries/damage to all vehicles involved including VIN, color, license plate number
Processing a claim will be made much easier if you have dashcam footage and vehicle data recorded through your fleet’s tracking system, so be sure to have this info in place. It could mean the difference between your company being held liable or not.
How To Reduce Risk
There are a number of ways to reduce your exposure to accidents. While none are 100% effective, these steps will help you to minimize your fleet’s risks.
First, fleet managers must be aware of who is most at risk. This includes new drivers, reckless drivers and aggressive drivers. To mitigate the risks from these drivers, be sure to implement good driver training and safety programs. Fleet tracking systems can also be helpful as they let you keep an eye on drivers, know which ones are exhibiting risky behaviors, and even give real-time coaching in the cab.
Next, you will want to upgrade your maintenance program. Better or more frequent maintenance can help ensure there aren't any breakdowns or mechanical malfunctions. This will also reduce costs by delaying or avoiding the breakdown and its resulting loss of productivity.
Another great idea is to ensure your fleet has access to an effective occupational medical program. If you already have such a program in place before an accident or workplace injury, it could mean lower costs in post-incident health care. And occupational medicine can also help prevent medical issues that could cause drivers to lose control on the road.
Be sure you have good quality GPS trackers and cameras to record the accident. If not, it could wind up being your employee’s word against another driver’s. When there are no witnesses and the evidence is inconclusive, you could wind up being on the hook for an accident that was entirely caused by someone else’s poor driving practices. And no matter who is at fault, having this type of data can help to speed up the claim considerably. It may even give you a reduction in insurance costs before any accident even occurs!
Commercial Vehicle GPS Tracking: Your Cost Saving Ally
That’s right, the most powerful tool in your cost-saving toolbox may just be your GPS tracking device. It can both help reduce risks and save costs in the event of a crash.
To reduce your risks, a good GPS tracking service can help improve driver safety by identifying risky behaviors and alerting drivers in real-time. It can monitor your drivers to ensure they’re not engaging in risky behaviors like speeding or hard braking. GPS tracking can help with education by identifying areas that require more safety training. And it can be used to keep drivers in check, giving you a more complete picture of how they are performing on the road.
But of course, the benefits don’t stop there. After an accident, a GPS tracker and dashcam can become an invaluable tool. It’s an impartial and reliable way to assess fault, proving exactly what speed your driver was traveling and how the vehicle was performing immediately prior to and during impact. It can be a good way to assess damage to the vehicle, ensuring that internal problems don’t go undiagnosed. And it can help speed up the claims process by providing insurance companies with the info they need to make decisions on your case.
If you haven’t explored the ways Azuga’s GPS fleet tracking for small businesses can help keep your fleet safer, isn’t it time you did? Call our fleet tracking experts today and we’ll be happy to help you learn just how your fleet can benefit.