With accident severity high and accident rates still top a concern for vocational work truck fleets, technology is coming to the rescue. While not a replacement for vigilance and ensuring top attention is always paid while in a vehicle, technology has come a long way to help keep fleets safer.
Accidents & Technology
Generally, according to Rich Radi, director, product management for ARI, a comprehensive telematics program combined with a multi-faceted driver training strategy is still the best option to help improve driver safety and, in turn, reduce accidents.
“We continue to see a growing number of fleet operators embrace telematics technology,” he added. “Of note, OEM-embedded telematics devices are now available in a greater number of vehicles, making it even easier for fleet operators to get started with a telematics solution. With this powerful technology now factory-installed in many popular fleet models, two of the biggest roadblocks companies typically face when exploring a telematics strategy have been eliminated - installation costs and logistics along with the associated vehicle downtime.”
Telematics technology essentially puts you inside the vehicle with your drivers, allowing you to monitor performance and quickly identify high-risk behaviors such as harsh braking, rapid acceleration, and speeding.
“When this telematics data is integrated into an advanced analytics platform, you can easily benchmark driving performance across your entire organization to pinpoint high-risk drivers and highlight opportunities to prescribe corrective training. By proactively identifying and training these high-risk drivers, you’re able to improve safety, prevent potential collisions, and better control accident costs,” Radi added.
Mike Irey, senior claims adjuster at Fleet Response has seen fleets install aftermarket back-up cameras to an effort to mitigate backing accidents.
“However, based on our client’s fleet make up we have not seen new technologies such as frontal collision avoidance and lane departure within in the medium-duty truck space,” Irey added.
Most experts agree, deploying telematics in the commercial trucking fleet is key to potentially reducing losses and keeping insurance premiums lower.
“If you can show that a telematics product is being used with improved driver performance, the insurance carrier will want to work to retain your business at a premium level that’s affordable,” said Connie Brinkmann, vice president of risk management for Enterprise Fleet Management.
In addition, Brinkmann noted that several manufacturers over the past few years have added standard technology features to their medium-duty fleet.
“Specifically, Isuzu has implemented electronic brake distribution systems, a seat belt warning, park brake, and cab latch switch indicators. These features along with the electronic brake pedal override and shift and key interlock features help increase safety while drivers are on the road,” she noted.
Brinkmann noted that other technology that remains optional for many fleets, but beneficial, includes collision and lane departure warnings, driver assistance systems, backup cameras with audio, and remote and backup mirrors.
“Improved size and placement of mirrors as well as lighting around the vehicle are also helpful to a commercial driver, especially one newer into the truck workforce. A best practice would be to get with your fleet provider to see what options are available to make the best purchasing or leasing decision where safety is a top priority,” Brinkmann said.
On the other hand, technology can still be seen by some as a disrupter and distraction.
“The technology already developed and in place; GPS tracking, safety equipment; either OEM or aftermarket is getting better which does help. We believe that some of the ‘workstations’ in vehicles and cellphone usage are still a distraction therefore more attention is needed to address these issues,” said Bob Martines, CEO of CCM Services.
For the most part, according to Kate Harland, manager, Driver Safety for ARI, preventable medium-duty accidents in 2021 remained relatively flat as compared to last year.
“When you look at that data in context with the overall rise in accident rates, it’s likely that most medium-duty drivers continued to log miles during the pandemic, keeping their skills fresh while also participating in the comprehensive safety programs most vocational fleet operators have in place to proactively address driver performance,” Harland noted.
CCM Services has saw the number of claims subject to subrogation decrease dramatically beyond the first four month’s timeframe associated with COVID-19.
“We believe drivers are feeling enormous pressure from a variety of sources which has perhaps distracted them enough to ultimately become involved in an incident. Also, many companies are having great difficulty in hiring/retaining employees which unfortunately is resulting in employing individuals they previously would not have hired if conditions were normal. The commitment from the new hires is not as dedicated. We have had clients ask us to pick up vehicles from locations where a driver had an accident, quit on the spot, leaving the vehicle on the side of the road. How can anyone be prepared for that?” said Sam Vallango, senior adjuster at CCM Services.