Automotive Fleet recently spoke with David Nelson, second vice president, Commercial Accounts Group at The Travelers about some of these trends and their impact on safety. - U.S. Air Force photo/Justin Connaher

Automotive Fleet recently spoke with David Nelson, second vice president, Commercial Accounts Group at The Travelers about some of these trends and their impact on safety.

U.S. Air Force photo/Justin Connaher

Several trends in commercial auto insurance in 2019 indicate a continued need for fleet managers and owners to focus on creating and implementing effective fleet safety policies.

Automotive Fleet recently spoke with David Nelson, second vice president, Commercial Accounts Group at Travelers about some of these trends and their impact on safety.

Distracted driving — More and more roadway collisions appear to be the result of distracted driving. Vehicle operators continue to be distracted by cell phones as well as a host of other factors both inside and outside the vehicle—and the problem doesn’t appear to be going away.

According to the 2019 Travelers Risk Index, one in four businesses say they have had an employee get in a distraction-related crash while driving for work. Twenty-six percent are greatly concerned about employee safety when using mobile technology while driving for work, and 87% worry about liability.

ADAS technology: A double-edged sword — While fleets want to use everything they can to keep drivers safe, high-tech safety features increase the cost of the vehicle and as a result fender-bender claims cost more. Simply put, driver assist technology and new headlights cost more to repair or replace. This can drive up deductibles as well as the average claim cost for physical damage of auto repairs.

“At the same time, vehicles outfitted with advanced technology can help limit the severity of accidents,” said Nelson.  “NHTSA crash data for 2018 showed a 2.4% decline in fatalities nationally, for example.”

Advanced safety systems are likely contributing to that decline in crash deaths. So in terms of liability and severity of crashes, fleets may be seeing some benefits from ADAS, but that is balanced with the extra costs to repair these vehicles.

Increased attorney involvement — Attorneys are actively pursuing auto accident business and more claimants now have legal representation. This trend has been increasing and the ramification for fleets is significant. “With attorney involvement, there is a tendency for higher expenditures for medical procedures and treatment,” said Nelson.

If a fleet driver has an accident and the other party uses an attorney, the cost of that accident could be steep.

That’s why it is more important than ever for fleet managers to formalize fleet safety policies, effectively communicate those policies to drivers, and ensure that drivers are following safety practices. “This helps limit the number of fleet accidents. And, if an attorney is involved in a case, having a strong safety policy in place allows the insurance company to be in a better position to better defend the fleet customer,” said Nelson.  

Shortage of commercial drivers — Another trend Nelson cites is a shrinking pool of commercial drivers, which can lead to an increase in fleet accidents.

Unemployment rates have been low for some time and as a result companies may have to hire drivers with fewer years of experience. Less experienced drivers are more likely to get into collisions.

In addition, with a greater demand for drivers, experienced drivers may change jobs more frequently for an increase in pay. That means experienced drivers find themselves operating a different vehicle in a different route or territory. The likelihood of accidents rises, simply because drivers are encountering more new and unfamiliar elements.

With these trends likely to continue into 2020, fleet owners will want to keep a strong focus on fleet safety policy. Smart safety practices save money, and most importantly, lives.

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