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Set Benchmarks And Measure Your Progress

It's probably safe to suggest that most fleet managers measure their success against a series of financial benchmarks. Unless they tracked any changes to income and freight volumes, it would be imposs...

It’s probably safe to suggest that most fleet managers measure their success against a series of financial benchmarks. Unless they tracked any changes to income and freight volumes, it would be impossible to determine whether the business was growing or shrinking at any given time.

The number and severity of collisions should be tracked in the same manner.

By using a history of collisions to establish a series of related benchmarks, fleets can put themselves in a position to measure the effectiveness of any proactive safety initiatives. The information can even be used to predict the cost of future losses.

The importance of establishing these reference points cannot be over-stated.

After all, it is impossible to measure any progress without understanding where you began.

Each operation should base its benchmarks on factors that reflect the related business. Most over-the- road fleets, for example, will compare crash frequency per million miles travelled.

In contrast, urban fleets may want to measure their exposure by comparing crash frequency per power unit.

The important thing is to establish a benchmark that will not be affected by any changes in the size of the fleet. (An overall shift in the number or severity of collisions could simply reflect a change in the number of power units).

Once these numbers are established, meanwhile, fleet managers will likely recognize some trends.

In general, about 30% of all crashes involve the high-cost incidents that lead to the most injuries and fatalities.

Head-on collisions, the T-boning of vehicles, and collisions with pedestrians, cyclists or the rear of other trucks fall into this group. These high-cost incidents also include rollovers, jackknife situations or a general loss of control.

The frequency of this category of collisions is particularly important to determine because it can account for an astounding 75% of collision-related financial losses.

The leading cause of truck driver fatalities continues to include impacts with the rear of another vehicle.

In contrast, cases in which drivers sideswipe other vehicles, hit stationary objects or back their way into a collision will account for about 40% of all crashes.

But it is also important to remember that they can lead to significant financial losses of their own.

A sideswiped vehicle may tend to lead to a loss of between $10,000 and $50,000, but it can also lead to a million-dollar claim.

The remaining group of losses will encompass situations that are more challenging to control, such as cargo claims, acts of God or a costly collision with a moose.

Once a fleet establishes its own benchmarks, it will be in a position to determine the impact of safety measures that target the specific challenges.

Indeed, the root cause of most crashes can certainly be addressed.

As the industry’s general experience might suggest, most issues fall within a driver’s control. Rear-end collisions and rollovers are often linked to factors such as driver fatigue. And many T-bone incidents could be avoided if drivers were more aware of their surroundings.

The use of a defensive-driving course that embraces a system such as Markel FACTS will encompass every aspect of the decision- making process that takes place behind the wheel.

Trainers will focus on proper visual skills, the need to scan the environment around a truck, and the perception of risk.

After that has been addressed, it is a matter of comparing changes in the collision rates to the individual benchmarks. That will determine whether a safety program is achieving its desired effect.

The benchmarking process can even be expanded to include any type of loss. A fuel hauler, for example, may also want to track the frequency at which tanks are contaminated with the wrong grade of fuel.

Information such as that can be used to measure the effectiveness of any programs that are designed to reduce cargo losses.

Just remember that regardless of the established reference points, any ultimate objective also needs to be realistic.

A goal of eliminating every collision may appear to be admirable, but it is better to channel your efforts into steady reductions in the overall figures that exist. It is all about taking a journey -and measuring your progress along the way.

-Albert Zimbalatti is the manager of special risks, safety and training services for Markel Insurance Company of Canada and has more than 31 years experience in providing loss control and risk management services to the trucking industry. Send your questions, feedback and comments about this column to Safety and Training Services, a division of Markel Insurance, offers specialized courses, seminars and consulting to fleet owners, safety managers, trainers and drivers.

Truck News

Truck News

Truck News is Canada's leading trucking newspaper - news and information for trucking companies, owner/operators, truck drivers and logistics professionals working in the Canadian trucking industry.
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