The hidden effect of COVID-19 on fleet safety

fleet-safety

Fleet managers have much to consider as they put vehicles back on the road.

If you’ve driven a motor vehicle since COVID-19 restrictions were initiated in March 2020, you’ve undoubtedly noticed fewer vehicles on the road. You might think this would result in a reduction in overall auto crash rates in general and fatality rates in particular. Unfortunately, it appears just the opposite is happening. While actual miles driven have declined, crash and fatality rates have increased.

With the reduction in traffic, drivers are demonstrating riskier behavior. This can be looked at in two ways:

  • People who are less risk averse may be accounting for a larger percentage of drivers while safer drivers may be limiting their driving.
  • Those who are driving are driving faster, with an increase of drug and alcohol use and a decrease in seat belt use.

With coronavirus vaccines in the early stages of distribution and an economy poised to expand, such risky behavior could have an even greater impact unless it is addressed. Commercial and private fleet managers may be lulled into a false sense of security by looking only at crash numbers without analyzing their crash rates and not seeing a need to address driving behavior.

Just as concerning, some fleets may have been fully or partially idled, and are gearing up now to get more of their vehicles out on the roads. This requires qualified drivers. Fleet managers will need to consider whether they will have the same driver pools, need to re-evaluate current drivers or possibly recruit, select and train new drivers. They’ll also need to check on their vehicle maintenance and determine if some scheduled services were delayed and now need to be completed.

For business owners who have explored transitioning from company-owned vehicles to employee-owned vehicles, they will need to ensure the safety controls for those vehicles are identical to a company-owned fleet. They also may want to look at processes that address the age, type and mechanical condition of employee-owned vehicles used for company business.

As fleet operators prepare to put more vehicles on the road, it’s apparent they can’t just go out, “start the car” and pick up where they left off. Some planning is needed. As with any process, it should be well reasoned and vetted before being implemented.

At minimum, you may want to consider these questions:

  • How am I measuring driver behavior? Have I done any behavior crash analysis?
  • What is the accountability?
  • How is the driver pool, new and existing, managed?
  • Is the maintenance program appropriate for the fleet operation?
  • Is my fleet makeup the same? What has changed?
  • Has my customer base changed, impacting the scope of operation or geographic footprint?

By taking these areas into account, you can help minimize the exposure to auto losses.

This loss control information is advisory only. The author assumes no responsibility for management or control of loss control activities. Not all exposures are identified in this article. Contact your local, independent insurance agent for coverage advice and policy service.


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