Telematics for Road Safety

An ordinary, everyday driver who experiences a serious auto accident quickly learns that the immediate financial impact is just a start. For days or weeks afterward, the expenses keep mounting.

These are many. If the automobile was wrecked – badly enough to be written off instead of repaired – there’s the replacement cost for a new one (many insurance offerings won’t cover all of it). There are medical bills, if a driver or passengers sustained injuries: emergency room visit, follow-up doctor appointments, physical therapy. Other expenses related to the vehicle may include towing costs, purchasing custom items such as accessories for the replacement car, the cost of a rental, and possibly higher insurance premiums in addition to the expense of the initial deductible.

Loss of income is another financial toll, if the accident required time off from work. There may be legal bills, in the case of a dispute. Sometimes there’s landscaping repair, or an invoice for city services.

For some time after the collision, rollover or other event, the bills may still be coming in.

These represent what are called the hidden costs of an accident. The total is often many times what initially was reckoned as the entire expense.

Staggering losses

In the trucking industry, the financial setbacks following an accident on the job can be much worse than the damages racked up in a non-commercial driver’s mishap.

These numbers can be astounding. In 2015 the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated the nation’s total annual cost of truck and bus crashes at $99 billion.

Again, the figure encompasses much more than the expense of vehicle repairs. Statistics compiled by the U. S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) take into account lost worker productivity, workers’ compensation and medical expenses, legal and court costs, and higher taxes to support police and emergency services.

Using information from 2009, Work Truck Online states the FMCSA calculated property damage alone from a commercial vehicle crash amounted to $18,000, on average. But accidents that result in injuries push that figure to an average $331,000. In the event of a fatality, the cost is $7.2 million.

That’s for a single accident. In an organization of any size, this expense will knock a serious dent in its bottom line.

Another analysis placed the average cost per accident at almost $200,000, with additional revenue required to balance the loss – the extra amount a business would have to earn to cover this incident.

A fleet owner or manager who sees these numbers should be unsettled, to say the least — and highly motivated to take measures that avoid this outcome. Minimizing risk and practicing damage control can help protect the organization from being pitched into a tailspin of costs, followed by an extremely difficult recovery.

Telematics for prevention

The root cause of most accidents is driver error. Employee and driver safety rules need to be specified and regularly communicated, with a clear policy distributed to staff and testing that reinforces it.

This offers two advantages. An enforced safe-driving policy should reduce the accident rate, and when this policy exists and is conveyed, that helps protect the company against an accusation of negligence regarding driver behavior.

The other aspect of prevention is training. Drivers should be evaluated based on telematics data, which records such behaviors as excessive speed, harsh braking, and rapid acceleration – unsafe driving practices that contribute to accidents. Fleet management telematics systems provide the information that can be used to identify drivers in need of additional coaching.

Telematics for litigation protection

Fleet telematics are useful in settling an issue. If an accident leads to a legal dispute, the electronic record produced by vehicle telematics serves as objective proof of what really happened – much more reliable than eyewitness testimony. When a disagreement goes to court, one person’s word is only as good as another’s, but digital records don’t lie and are given more weight than other recollection.

Trucking accidents are high-profile events in the news, and as a result a commercial trucker often has a greater burden of proof in showing absence of negligence. Telematics records have helped many fleet owners and operators clear that bar – and avoid costly damage to brand reputation.

    Sarah Barbod

    Sarah is a digital content producer with over 10 years of writing and editing experience. She currently serves as a content marketing specialist for a leading international telematics company where she publishes about telematics and the transportation and construction industries.

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