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When tackling losses, track from ‘Dollar One’


The price of a collision might seem pretty obvious at first glance. Repairs to cracked fibreglass and twisted metal all come at specific costs, and insurance deductibles dictate the dollars that will come directly out of pocket.

Insightful fleet managers who carefully track all the related costs – beginning with the first expense, or what I like to refer to as “Dollar One” – know that such physical damage is only the beginning.

Damaged trucks lead to delays, delivery penalties, tow bills and fees for short-term rentals. Injured drivers need time to recover.

Even in-house repairs carry real costs in the form of wages, replacement parts and overhead. Insurance premiums rise. And damaged reputations can certainly lead to lost business opportunities.

There is a good reason to track each underlying cost. They are the details that help to refine any mitigation strategies.

Most fleet managers will recognize that a driver who has been involved in a collision could benefit from additional training, but those who apply extra data in the decision-making process will identify the type of training that will deliver the biggest results and make financial sense.

Look to a vehicle’s electronic control module for just one example.  Signs of excessive speed, hard-braking events or unusually harsh turns can point to a specific driver who could benefit from training in the defensive driving that enhances safety, increases fuel economy, and reduces the strain on equipment. Cost savings can be calculated for each issue, and used to justify investments in a particular training program. The same details can then be used to determine if the training changed habits and delivered the desired results.

Meanwhile, increases in the collisions linked to lane changes, backing and striking fixed objects tend to involve visibility.

In cases like these, refined route plans, spotter mirrors on fenders, and training in mirror adjustments might be the most cost-effective strategies to help drivers identify hazards before metal collides.

Other insights emerge when comparing collision data to the time of day, day of the week, and ultimately hours-of-service records. Collisions that come near the end of a driver’s allowable hours could suggest that driver fatigue played a role. Investments in a case like this might involve training in fatigue management strategies, or electronic on-board recorders that offer an unwavering focus on a driver’s hours.

Reports that track the type of damage identified after a collision can offer several other insights.

A surge in hoods that were damaged while parked in a specific truck stop, for example, might point to drivers who tend to rest near the edges of active lanes.

If the damage tends to occur in a specific customer’s yard, it might be time to revisit traffic flows, or open discussions about moving physical hazards such as idled equipment.

Evidence of sideswiped vehicles, meanwhile, tends to be addressed by adding and aiming mirrors, and ensuring that drivers know how often they should be peering into the reflective surfaces.

Data about the drivers can offer insights of its own.

A cluster of problems that involve those who have been on the job for less than a year can point to the need to refocus hiring practices and training.

But sometimes the collisions can be traced to drivers who have been on the job for five to 10 years, and know every bump and bend in a particular route. In cases like these, drivers might have become complacent, and benefit from occasional changes in routes.

Then there are the drivers who record moving violations.

The fines are only the beginning of the unwanted costs. Every ticket for following too close, speeding or careless driving can suggest the increasing threat of a collision – particularly the high-cost events such as rear-end collisions.

Those who work behind the wheel need the training to ensure they can identify and react to approaching threats.

But the underlying costs are not limited to drivers or even collisions.

Those who spot a surge in out-of-service defects might want to investigate whether preventive maintenance activities are completed in a timely manner, or see if the issues are the type that should have been identified during a driver’s pre-trip inspection.

In every case, this is about gathering the data that can be used to focus resources.

The same data can help to identify the strategies that offer a measurable return on investment, rather than looking like an additional cost.

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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 www.nbins.com.


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