Each year, hundreds of new cars and trucks are released with an endless array of bells and whistles. With every new improvement made and efficiency gained, drivers are paying more in purchase prices and less attention to what they are doing behind the wheel; these new cars can practically drive themselves. Despite that fact, distracted driving is a greater issue than ever before. As a result, commercial auto insurance loss ratios have been well exceeding 100% across the country and are a real problem for insurance carriers as they look to write business in a profitable way.
For an insurance agency, one line of business underperforming bleeds over into other lines, such as Property and General Liability. The problem with auto claims is that they are one of the more common claim types that tap into umbrella limits as well. At the end of the day, large fleet has become an industry problem child, helping lead to the current hardening market conditions.
From a business owner perspective, each of your drivers can be likened to an erratic missile that has the potential to cause a lot of damage, all with your company logo emblazoned on the side. What can be done to control all the risks associated with these drivers? By taking a proactive approach and implementing telematics (GPS, dashboard cameras, AI, etc.) into your fleet, you will be more adept in guiding behavior, identifying poor drivers, and providing valuable evidence in the event of a crash. Some carriers are already making some level of these systems a requirement on their policies for large fleets.
DATA COLLECTED OR GENERATED BY TELEMATICS
Monitor hours of use, batteries, valves, sensors, and more using engine diagnostics – allowing for preventative maintenance.
Real-time vehicle location information to find the safest and most efficient routes, enhance road safety and cut down on fuel costs.
Track vehicle operations such as speed, idling time, harsh driving, and more to prevent accidents and provide coaching where needed.
Despite their increasing usage, there have been several items of contention among business owners as to why they shy away from these types of systems:
Implementing telematics systems can be a significant investment for a business owner. Many often come with a monthly fee, although most will give you the equipment for free if you request this as part of the contract. A simple set up can cost $150 for just a camera whereas more robust “Cadillac” systems can go for up to $50+ per unit, per month. In rationalizing the pricing for these systems, some important questions to consider are what are your losses costing you in additional premium? What is the cost of a significant crash of one of your company vehicles and the potential PR ramifications to your business? What is the cost of the life of your driver and the others in the crash?
I have heard countless times that a company’s drivers are “old school.” Drivers don’t want these systems implemented, and with drivers at a premium (particularly in the Boston area), companies don’t want people to leave over them. However, as more and more drivers are being exonerated as a result of video evidence in scenarios where they are being falsely blamed for an accident, that tide has started to turn. This will continue to become less of an issue as more people and companies adopt them.
What if the cameras get me in trouble? This common misconception that the cameras will expose drivers is another issue, despite the fact that video footage is far more likely to get them out of trouble than in it. Commercial vehicles, particularly heavy vehicles, are typically blamed in accidents caused by the poor driving of others. And without video footage, it’s more difficult to prove.
The other question becomes, are you taking on more liability knowing that there is a solution available that could make things safer while making the conscious decision to not utilize it? In the event of a large claim, this fact could be used by the attorney against you. Some of these systems provide driver monitoring for you, and with the aid of artificial intelligence, can help identify bad drivers. They provide a scoring system and real time ability to use near-misses as a learning tool. A scorecard that outlines a driver’s performance can not only help you prove that an employee is a good driver, but will also make it easier to identify those who may be close to causing a big crash and give you the opportunity to deal with it proactively.
At the end of the day, it’s a safe assumption that cameras are coming. With this added level of monitoring, you are able to help track near misses and guide behavior, like alerting you if a driver is not wearing a seatbelt, falling asleep, speeding in work zones, or looking at their phone. They help you identify those that are most likely to become a problem. In a vast majority of cases, the benefits far outweigh the cost and ultimately improve your drivers, save lives, and likely even save you money
In a vast majority of cases, the benefits of telematics far outweigh the cost and ultimately improve your drivers, save lives, and likely even save you money.
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Greg Deems | CRIS
Senior Vice President | Business Insurance
Greg Deems is a Partner and Vice President, Consultant in the Business Insurance at RogersGray. He specializes in insurance programs for complicated construction risks and property. Greg previously served as the Chairman of the Board of Directors for both the South Shore Young Professionals and the Plymouth Area Coalition for the Homeless, and remains highly involved with both organizations. Greg also volunteers for several committees at the Friendship Home in Norwell. You can connect with Greg on LinkedIn or by email.