Concentrating on higher risk behaviour, rather than analysing collisions, can lower fleet risk profiles. Fleets are in danger of focusing on the wrong area of their crash data when trying to improve their safety record, according to a leading insurer.
Michael Gwilt (pictured), fleet risk manager at HDI Global, has warned that concentrating on collisions, rather than near misses and driver errors, means fleets are missing the opportunity to reduce dramatically the number of occasions when their drivers and vehicles are at risk.
Using a pair of pyramids to illustrate his point, with driver errors at the base and fatalities at the apex, Gwilt said that by shrinking the number of driver errors, the number of every type of incident declines.
The airline industry has adopted this philosophy wholeheartedly, investigating near misses and accidents and sharing the lessons to minimise the risk of incidents reoccurring in the future [read Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed for a brilliant analysis of this].
The challenge facing fleets is to create a similar environment at a time when advanced vehicle safety technology is reducing perceived road risk and the danger of driver distractions is rising.
HDI Global will only insure fleets that install telematics systems, insisting that the data is vital for understanding exactly how drivers approach their responsibility behind the wheel. And it’s not simply incidents of harsh braking and acceleration that provide valuable evidence of driver attitudes.
“The reason we measure engine idling and speed patterns is to see whether drivers obey the rules, or think the rules only apply to other people. If you have a three-minute idling rule and find people idling for 15 minutes, then those are the people who think rules apply to others,” said Gwilt.
This type of behaviour can indicate drivers more likely to break the speed limit or use their phone while driving, increasing exponentially the risks they face. But if the number of these driver errors reduces, as in figure 2, so too do the number of more serious incidents and collisions.
The focus of insurers and traditional fleet controls has typically been on after-the-fact analysis of the top three categories of the pyramids; fatalities, serious injuries and ‘bump and scrape’ vehicle damage, said Gwilt.
“But if we can reduce the thousands of bad driving incidents, we can shrink all those other categories,” he said. “We are trying to reduce the times when a collision could take place.”
The experience of HDI Global indicates that fleets which use telematics data both to monitor and then to mentor driver performance, can start a virtuous circle where the benefits extend well beyond the insurance arena.
“Fleet insurance policies are linked to the frequency and severity of claims,” said Gwilt. “You can reduce the frequency of collisions by getting drivers to pay better attention, and if drivers do pay attention if there is a collision it’s usually less severe. And insurance is part of a bigger picture of TCO (total cost of ownership) – smarter, smoother driving leads to lower fuel consumption and cheaper maintenance, because you are less demanding on tyres and brakes.”
Picture: Via LinkedIn.