The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

Gaining Control Over Driver Accident Rates

October 2007, by Steve Bennett

When too many vehicles in a fleet are involved in accidents in a given year, costs mount not only in repairs and employee productivity, but also in potential medical and liability expense.

Director of Safety Services for Fleet Response, an accident management company in Cleveland, David Vance said the way to gain control of such a troubling trend is to begin by delving into driver and accident data. When he analyzed the data, Vance found that among fleets having “way too many accidents,” he identified drivers who had been involved in six to eight events or more during the previous two to three years.

That nugget of knowledge led to Vance’s first question, “What contributed to those drivers being allowed to get behind the wheel?”

And then it was back to the data to discover the answer.

Fleet Response offers, among other services, electronic ordering and management of MVRs from all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Canada. Fleet managers can easily review an MVR for insight into a driver’s past performance.

Data Identifies At-Risk Drivers
Fleet Response also can mine its extensive database for valuable information, Vance said. For instance, drivers who are potentially the greatest risk of being involved in a preventable accident can be identified. An enhanced Web-based service, Driver History Profile (DHP), classifies drivers into risk categories by combining MVRs and accident claim data. The accident data includes accident type, cause, repair cost, time for repair, and the overall effect each incident has on a fleet.

Using National Safety Council guidelines and other industry standards, each accident is reviewed to establish type, cause, and preventability. Once the data is confirmed for each incident, Fleet Response’s safety specialists work with a fleet to establish an effective safety program targeting problem drivers and recurring incidents.

Study Reveals Driver Behavior
Vance recently completed a study of high-incident drivers — those involved in more than three incidents in 12 months. As part of the project, he scrutinized how those drivers described incident details to their employers, and compared them to the details in the database.

According to Vance, high-incident drivers often misrepresented what had happened or their accounts conflicted with the filed claims. For example, a company driver might say his or her vehicle was rear-ended, while the claim indicated just the opposite: that the employee had rear-ended the other vehicle.

Vance, a Certified Safety Specialist, said that in studying details of claims he also found delays in the amount of time drivers took to turn in a vehicle after an incident.

However, these drivers should not be summarily fired, Vance advised, noting that often drivers had personal issues that were “tearing them apart.” Instead, they should be advised or trained in how to improve their driving.

Not all blame falls on the drivers, Vance also learned. He said when business is good, managers and others are busy keeping up with business demands that can overshadow or distract attention from other matters. For example, when regional managers and their sales representatives are under pressure to complete a certain number of daily visits to customers, conscientious driving practices sometimes get short shrift. A re-emphasis on safety, through a retraining or refresher session, can help maintain consistent attention to safe driving practices..

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