Collision review committees can look much deeper than a single crash

by Kevin Cole

Every crash site tells a story. Skid marks can be used to calculate vehicle speed, direction, and where the brakes were applied. Gouges in the road, when matched to damaged equipment, help determine the direction and force of impact.

Something as simple as the colour of paint on a guard rail can show which vehicle bounced off the protective barrier.

Formal collision review committees dig even deeper than evidence like this – exploring the underlying causes of any crashes and recommending corrective actions.

That can be valuable insight for any fleet.

The make-up of these committees varies from one fleet to the next, but effective models tend to include a cross-section of experts including drivers, safety teams, operations personnel and mechanics. Regardless of the specific people who participate, the committees with no more than three to five members also tend to be particularly nimble, and avoid the scheduling conflicts that can emerge when trying to gather large groups together for regular meetings or special sessions to explore a significant crash.

Once at the table, each of the members examines an array of related evidence like an accident report, the nature of the load, and pages from logbooks. Each review can reflect everything from weather conditions to the layout of the road, unusual traffic patterns, or the careless actions of other motorists. And, as that list suggests, the committee’s reviews will rely on a comprehensive library of data.

Central to any review will be the accident reporting kits which drivers fill out at a crash scene. These formal checklists ensure that no detail is left behind, and come complete with diagrams of the accident scene. Those who equip cabs with small cameras will enjoy the added benefit of photos of any damage.

But there are other valuable sources of information beyond the collision itself to consider.

Insurers, for example, will be able to offer some insight of their own, pointing to a fleet’s trends in similar types of collisions.

Documents like driver files will go a step further, reflecting an employee’s personal record and experience with specific pieces of equipment.

It is undoubtedly a longer list of information than might be needed to file an insurance claim or meet the needs of police investigations. But these reviews are looking to answer more than the questions of whether a driver was following the rules of the road at the time of the collision. They offer the details that can be compared against similar experiences, and help to establish related benchmarks.

After all, fleets can define a “preventable” collision differently than the police themselves. For example, some fleets dismiss animal strikes as a cost of doing business, while others do not.

And the deeper the committee can dig, the more effective the resulting strategies can be.

In one case, Northbridge Insurance found that more than 20% of a particular fleet’s collisions involved drivers with less than six months of seniority. A similar spike was seen among those on the job with one to two years of experience. An obvious remedy there came in the form of defensive driving training for new hires. But the fleet’s safety department also discovered that long-term employees were responsible for another spike in tracked collisions. This led to refresher courses for more experienced personnel.

Solutions may not be limited to training, either.

At first glance, a collection of drivers who back into the same obstacle may appear to need extra training in adjusting a mirror. A closer look at exactly where the collisions are happening might lead to changes in the path that trucks take through the site, the alignment of parking spaces, or the location of the obstacle itself.

Committees have been known to turn their attention to recruiting procedures as well, to ensure that the fleet is identifying high-risk drivers who are hiding in the mix. And those which monitor the timing of specific crashes may discover an unusual number of collisions at a specific time of day, or when hauling freight for a particular customer. Information like that may be used to reform dispatching procedures, or even influence the content of customer contracts.

It shows how information can be a powerful force – especially when the resulting recommendations are supported by a fleet’s managers.

That’s when lasting changes emerge and begin to deliver dividends for years to come.

– This month’s expert is Kevin Cole, risk services specialist. Kevin has served the trucking industry for more than 25 years providing loss control and risk management services to the trucking industry. Northbridge Insurance is a leading Canadian commercial insurer built on the strength of four companies with a long standing history in the marketplace and has been serving the trucking industry for more than 60 years. You can visit them at

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