Crashes and other incidents can be costly in more ways than one for fleet managers, making safety a top priority in their operations.
According to Chris Senica, director of risk management for Enterprise Fleet Management, it all begins with choosing the right vehicles equipped with essential safety features for the job.
“Making safety a top priority is key. That starts by working with fleet owners ordering the right vehicles that are right for the job, but that also have the necessary safety features that best serve the business,” Senica said.
But this is just the starting point. In recent years, technology and data-driven insights have played a pivotal role in revolutionizing how fleet managers approach accident and crash reduction.
Crash & Accident Trends in Truck Fleets
Unlike in past Work Truck coverage researching crash and accident management, this year’s trends depended on the vehicle class and statistics you were looking at.
Understanding these trends, from accident rates to claims, helps keep your fleet drivers safer and costs lower.
“Accident rates continue to trend in the wrong direction as we see a nearly 7% increase in incidents compared to last year. However, while certainly concerning, when you dive deeper into the data, there are some important factors to remember,” said Shawn Morris, vice president, North America fleet management services for Holman.
Morris noted that during the past 12 to 18 months, a growing number of organizations have returned to the office (from a primarily remote/hybrid work environment).
“There’s been a rather significant increase in business miles driven. Additionally, recreational travel is also on the rise, and more vehicles are on the road, logging more miles,” Morris added.
Everyone would rather see accident rates heading in the other direction. But Morris noted that those factors will naturally push accident rates higher, a trend likely to linger as business and recreational travel continues to increase.
When digging deeper into the data, Lytx noted the most substantial reductions were for light- and medium-duty vehicles across both collision categories.
“Even though we added 15% more vehicles to the light- and medium-duty categories, collisions were reduced when looking at the raw total number of collisions. It’s a testament to our safety program that we could add so many vehicles and still see a reduction in the total number of collisions,” said Kyle Warwick, senior analyst, Client Intelligence at Lytx.
Specific to medium-duty trucks, accidents in the calendar year 2023 have shown a slight improvement in collision claims compared to the same time in 2022.
“But, light-duty truck collisions have seen a slight uptick. Although positive news on the collision front, comprehensive claims for both medium- and light-duty trucks have increased,” said Senica of Enterprise Fleet Management.
What’s Impacting Accident Claims?
Some obvious items impacting accident claims include rising glass costs and added technology. But one thing making a difference this year may be something other than what you typically connect to accidents: catalytic converters.
“The primary factors contributing to these increased comprehensive claims are glass and catalytic converter claims,” said Senica of Enterprise Fleet Management.
Looking more closely at glass claims, Seneca noted that the increased size and complexity of glass used on trucks today directly impact claim severity.
“While the increased use of glass helps with things like driver visibility — an improved safety feature — costs associated with fixing these parts have also increased,” he added.
Additionally, as newer makes and models become available, two trucks may look identical but have differing safety components within the glass, and these features can vary significantly in the replacement costs.
“This gap can be more than $500 for the glass itself. The added recalibration component, so the additional safety features continue to work as designed, then add additional costs,” Senica said.
The commercial fleet and work truck industry has seen catalytic converter thefts increase dramatically year over year.
“For trucks in particular, the high ground clearance beneath the trucks and being parked in unattended parking lots makes these vehicles easy targets for thieves,” Senica said.
What can fleets do about converter thefts? Awareness of the issue is the first step. The second is acting.
“To help reduce thefts, fleet owners can place blocks under the vehicles, and they should look to keep vehicles in a secured or high-fenced area,” Senica recommended.
Another potential impact? According to Robert Martines, CEO of Corporate Claims Management, it could be the driver.
“We firmly believe the contributing factors for the increases are inexperienced, untrained, and youthful driving forces employed by many companies nationwide,” Martines said.
He noted that many younger drivers he sees today do not have a personal vehicle to drive, especially a truck, yet are hired to drive for a living.
“If they are lucky, they may have received some training but most likely not, unless they fall under DOT regulations which do not apply to light duty trucks. Sadly, for many companies, the depleted workforce is causing them to hire individuals they may not have previously considered,” Martines added.
Martines also noted a connection in accident rates to increased tech.
“Vehicles today have more ‘eye candy’ and tools that are supposed to help. Many are pure distractions. The ability to turn off certain features has not helped. Unfortunately, companies feel more pressure to keep problematic drivers because they cannot find a suitable replacement, which the employee knows, equates to less likelihood of any negative consequence unless the event is severe. As hard to believe as this may appear, there are almost no consequences for poor behavior,” Martines said.
Safety + Data: A Powerful Combination
Fleet management is a complex and challenging task that demands constant attention to safety. In recent years, integrating safety practices with data-driven insights has revolutionized how fleet managers approach accident and crash reduction. This powerful combination not only ensures the well-being of drivers and vehicles but also positively impacts the overall efficiency and profitability of the fleet.
Ofelia Chernock, senior manager of product marketing at Lytx, emphasizes the critical role of safety culture in every aspect of fleet management.
"An understanding that safety is everyone's responsibility is critical to having a deep safety culture at the root of the business, which helps in making business decisions," she asserts.
This foundational approach sets the tone for the entire fleet and fosters a collective commitment to safety.
Data plays a pivotal role in making safety practices more effective and targeted. Chernock highlights how having data at their fingertips empowers coaches and supervisors to focus on drivers with the riskiest profiles. With data-driven insights, they can implement targeted interventions and training programs to enhance driver performance and minimize potential crashes.
Furthermore, data analytics enables fleet managers to develop insightful dashboards that showcase risk and safe profiles for drivers.
"Using data to develop insightful dashboards showing the risk and safe profile for the drivers (risky and skillful driving behaviors showing when a driver needs a bit more training/education or highlighting when a driver deserves reward/recognition) and the fleet overall," Chernock explained.
These dashboards serve as powerful tools to identify training needs and recognize outstanding drivers, ultimately contributing to improving fleet safety.
Telemetry data, fed through APIs and integrations, is another critical component in ensuring vehicle health and maintenance. Chernock emphasized the significance of this data in keeping vehicles safe on the road, adding,
"This could be ANY data fed via APIs/integrations." Fleet managers can access real-time information on vehicle conditions, which allows them to identify potential issues before they become significant problems leading to accidents.
The importance of accident reduction in fleet management cannot be overstated. Martines highlighted the measurable benefits of safety and MVR (Motor Vehicle Records) programs.
He stated, "We have witnessed loss reductions, liability claims, and lower costs due to an aggressively managed safety/MVR program."
Implementing comprehensive safety programs and monitoring MVRs can substantially reduce crashes, losses, and overall costs.
However, the integration of advanced technology in vehicles comes with its challenges. Mike Irey, senior adjuster at Fleet Response, addresses the potential costs associated with repairs to modern vehicle components. He explains,
"The technology continues to evolve, as will the cost to replace damaged parts. Costs such as radar units, blind-spot monitors, and calibration costs associated with this technology have historically never been an issue in collision repair," Irey said.
Despite the cost challenges, embracing safety technology remains crucial for reducing crashes and enhancing fleet safety.
John Mitzel, senior director of marketing at FleetUp, highlighted the continued importance of fleet management software and dashcams in monitoring driver behavior.
"These products will be instrumental in helping alert and coach drivers to improve their performance. Fleet managers can also use data analytics to identify trends and patterns in their driving events. This can help them develop targeted strategies for reducing accidents and improving safety across their fleets," Mitzel noted.
Moreover, fleet management software significantly contributes to accident reduction.
Mitzel added, "Fleet management software can reduce accidents by helping fleet managers perform regular vehicle maintenance and inspections. These can help identify potential issues before they become major problems that could cause an accident."
Rich Radi, director of product management for Holman, emphasizes the importance of a multi-faceted driver safety program for success. He outlines vital elements that should be included in such programs, such as setting clear driving performance expectations, personalized onboarding, continuous training, telematics-based assessment, and targeted online modules to improve driver behavior.
Senica of Enterprise Fleet Management addresses the increasing costs of insurance and the role of safety features in vehicle selection.
"With the cost of insurance continuing to rise, many fleet companies are now looking at safety features as a component of their vehicle selection process," Senica said.
Fleet owners also adopt continuous monitoring solutions and virtual training to enhance safety. Senica adds, "Fleet accounts are increasing how often they are running motor vehicle records, and many are moving to a continuous monitoring solution. Fleet owners often conduct new hires and continuous safe driver training."
Telematics emerged as a vital tool for real-time data and informed decision-making.
Senica explained, "Using a fleet telematics tracking device, operators can watch their fleets from almost anywhere in real time. This allows a fleet owner to see what can be improved immediately to continue to reduce losses."
Reducing accidents in fleet management is a moral imperative and a strategic necessity for optimizing efficiency and reducing costs. Embracing a safety culture, leveraging data-driven insights, and adopting advanced technology are critical to reducing accidents and enhancing overall fleet safety.
Fleet managers must prioritize safety and make data-backed decisions to create a safer and more productive fleet.
Using Technology to Impact Accident Reduction
In today’s modern fleet, technology, driver training, and vehicle safety features are crucial for improving driver safety, reducing accidents, and mitigating risks in fleet management.
Technology in vehicles, such as crash avoidance technology, telematics, and advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), play a crucial role in minimizing accidents and improving driver safety. But it shouldn’t be solely relied upon. Driving skills and training are also fundamental.
“I have stated over the years, especially when discussing accidents and preventability, the technology in vehicles is amazing. Any product that can help minimize accidents and prevent injuries or death is a great step in the right direction. However, I cannot stress enough that you cannot rely solely on technology. Any mechanical or electrical part in any vehicle can fail at any time without notice. If a driver does not have the skill set to drive a vehicle, they are more likely to be involved in an incident than a well-trained, alert driver,” said Martines of Corporate Claims Management.
Telematics programs combined with driver training strategies are highly effective in improving driver safety and reducing accident rates.
“Along with enhancements in GPS systems, we are also starting to see some units with crash avoidance technology. While this is not standard in the traditional commercial truck world, we expect to have standardized technology upgrades just as we see in the private passenger sector,” said Richard Jacko, manager, Adjuster Team at Fleet Response.
Telematics allows for monitoring driver behavior and identifying high-risk behaviors.
“A comprehensive telematics program combined with a multi-faceted driver training strategy is still the best option to improve driver safety and, in turn, reduce accident rates. The good news is that we continue to see many fleet operators embrace telematics. Technology is evolving rapidly, allowing fleet operators to monitor driver behavior innovatively,” said Morris of Holman.
Telematics technology puts you inside the vehicle with your drivers.
“When this telematics data is integrated into an advanced analytics platform, you can easily benchmark driving performance across your organization to pinpoint high-risk drivers and highlight opportunities to prescribe corrective training. By proactively identifying and training these high-risk drivers, you can improve safety, prevent potential collisions, and better control accident costs,” Morris added.
OEM-embedded and video-enabled telematics devices are becoming more widely available, making it easier for fleet operators to implement telematics solutions.
“Today, OEM-embedded telematics devices are available in several vehicles, making it even easier for fleet operators to get started with telematics solutions. 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,” Morris said.
“Additionally, video-enabled telematics devices are now more widely available. In addition to providing all the benefits of a typical telematics unit, the video-enabled devices allow fleet operators to monitor in-cab driver behavior and easily identify incidents of distracted driving and other high-risk behavior. These units also typically feature road-facing and cabin-facing cameras, providing valuable video evidence should an accident or other incident occur. Some units also provide speakers and/or displays to deliver real-time audio/visual coaching to improve safety further,” Morris added.
Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), such as lane departure warnings, blind spot monitoring, and automatic emergency braking, are increasingly common and can help mitigate human error and reduce accident rates.
“It is also important to reinforce the benefits of various advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). Whether it is a lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, or automatic emergency braking, these systems –now common across most models – can mitigate human error and help reduce accident rates. Suppose these systems are not standard features on a particular model. In that case, fleet operators should strongly consider options or packages that include these valuable safety features,” Morris said.
Vocational work truck technology, including ADAS equipment, has improved significantly in the past decade.
“Overall, the positive news is that vocational work truck technology continues to improve, and the adoption of ADAS equipment in trucks has improved tremendously over the past ten years,” said Senica of Enterprise Fleet Management.
Features like seat belts, backing, parking sensors, adjusting automatic high beams, and embedded modems contribute to safer fleets.
“Simple features like seat belt sensors have been improved in most trucks to remind drivers and passengers of the importance of buckling up. Additional backing and parking sensors are added to trucks, helping run a safer fleet. Some vehicles now also have embedded modems, providing information on driver behaviors that can be used for in-vehicle coaching in real time. This can be a game-changer in helping reduce losses,” said Chris Senica, director of Risk Management for Enterprise Fleet Management.
Ensuring the road ahead stays visible is also important.
“Most trucks entering fleets today have the adjusting automatic high-beam feature, which helps tremendously with night visibility. At Enterprise Fleet Management, we see most trucks with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and blind spot monitoring,” Senica noted.
All these technological pieces help prevent accidents or respond to impending risks.
“Camera systems are one improvement that can be useful to fleet owners to capture exposures around the vehicle and be helpful when driving and parking. These can be found in some baseline models with the most improved camera features in higher trim packages,” Senica added.
Mitzel of FleetUp continues to see improvements with many existing technologies, including:
- Fleet management software.
- AI dashcams.
- Collision mitigation systems.
- Lane departure warning systems.
- Blind spot detection systems.
- Backup cameras.
“The adoption of AI into these technologies will ostensibly continue. Over time, these technologies will be widely incorporated into most fleets,” said Mitzel added.
Looking Forward: The Future of Truck Accident Management
The future of accident management costs and programs for vocational work trucks is a concern for many in the industry.
Fleet managers and senior management are expected to accept repairs in the $8,000 to $15,000 range more frequently as the costs to repair vehicles continue to rise at unjust rates from manufacturers and aftermarket suppliers.
Digging into a Safer Fleet Future
The lack of parts due to extended rental times also adds to the burden. However, several trends are closely monitored, including enhanced vehicle connectivity and rising accident costs.
“As technology continues to evolve, vehicles are far more connected to the surrounding environment than ever before — vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V), vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I), and vehicle-to-everything (V2X). This connectivity not only moves vehicles further down the autonomous spectrum, it also powers more advanced ADAS technology,” said Radi of Holman.
The increase in crash-related costs is not only due to inflation but also due to technology. When advanced sensors, cameras, LIDAR, etc., are damaged in a crash or incident, it can be expensive to repair/replace them.
Even if these items are not damaged, they will likely require recalibration as other vehicle components are repaired/replaced. This also applies to electric vehicles, which typically require specialized tools and components to repair following a crash.
“With trucks becoming a larger part of many fleets across the industry, at Enterprise Fleet Management, we’ve also seen an increase in accident management costs. Typically, truck repairs cost more and take longer through the repair process,” said Senica of Enterprise Fleet Management.
As technology changes and grows within fleet, ensuring proper training and education for everyone involved is more important than ever.
“In light of these industry changes, along with the reduction in truck repair shops across many markets, employees must be trained to operate their vehicles properly before they are put behind the wheel. It is also important that ongoing safety training becomes and continues to be part of the company’s business model,” Senica added.
Fleet management software can automate data collection, analysis, and management tasks and processes that optimize a company's fleet. AI helps companies examine their organizational structure and suggest big-picture strategies to maximize safety and efficiency.
“Management of these repairs will require a technical understanding of the systems, the ability to troubleshoot, and competently restore the system to a pre-loss state. Training is key as these systems advance. Further, there must be allowances made in repair forecasts/budgeting that allow for the technology costs associated with repairs,” said Byron Evans, senior adjuster at Fleet Response.
The future of accident management costs and programs for vocational work trucks is a growing concern. However, fleet managers can stay ahead of the curve and ensure their fleets are safe and efficient with proper training, investment in automation and AI, and allowances made in repair forecasts/budgeting.
As Martines of Corporate Claims Management said, "Fix it now so you can plan properly for tomorrow."
As the fleet industry evolves, adopting advanced technologies and incorporating AI will become more prevalent. The ongoing improvements in existing technologies, such as collision mitigation systems, lane departure warning systems, and telematics, will drive crash-reduction efforts across most fleets.
The successful reduction of crashes in fleet management hinges on striking the right balance between technology, driver training, and safety features. By leveraging telematics, AI dashcams, ADAS, and other advanced technologies, fleet managers can create safer environments for their drivers, minimize risks, and achieve significant crash-reduction outcomes.