The September issue of Automotive Fleet provided some interesting insights in the general rise in post-crash costs affecting corporate and light duty fleets. In short, crash management costs have risen by 6.2 percent from 2012 to 2013.
The details are what makes the article interesting. Changes in car design to incorporate more exotic (and expensive) materials (i.e. aluminum, magnesium and carbon fibers) which reduce weight to increase fuel economy are costly to repair or replace. The number of parts (sub-assemblies, wiring harnesses, etc.) have also increased making repairs more cumbersome for mechanics, and parts availability has added delays in getting vehicles back on the road.
Putting added stress on already overworked repair teams are the floods of car and light duty truck recalls. Pressed to prioritize, parts makers will push the first available components to “new-vehicle production”, the second batch to support recalls and then, finally, to support the replacement part market.
Technology — from hybrid drive trains to safety features like side impact airbags — also complicate and delay repair projects which drives up costs. Changes in vehicle manufacturing also have an affect on costs — hot stamping of critical components (transforming low-tensile strength steel into high-strength steel) means that the entire assembly must be replaced instead of cutting away the damaged portion and welding in a piece of steel (the structural strength would be compromised). This can affect pillars, body panels and structural components.
On the flip side, there are ways to contain costs.
The very best way is to never have the crash in the first place! Fleets with robust safety programs generally have fewer crashes than fleets with “token” safety processes. How much of a difference did safety make over the past three years?
- In 2011. the average fleet had 27% of it’s drivers involved in a crash, but safety-centric fleets had only 25% of their drivers become involved in a crash.
- A two percentage point difference isn’t much, but in 2012 the gap had widened to 11 points (28% of drivers without safety programs versus 17% of drivers in robust safety programs had crashes.)
- In 2013, the gap was at 12 percentage points (25% versus 13%).
Key tactics to increase safety results?
- Tighten hiring standards as much as possible. Drivers with extensive histories of tickets and crashes are likely to continue in that mode. A risk scoring model may help you to identify drivers with chronic patterns of poor driving.
- Monitor performance of drivers for complaints, near miss activity, GPS data, newly received tickets, how’s my driving hotline issues, etc.
- Drivers who haven’t been through driver education in a while, those who’ve recently had tickets, crashes or complaints should all receive a periodic training module to help break up any complacency around driving safely. Short, tailored programs on specific topics that have been matched to the issues of each driver is a good strategy. Sitting through long-winded, tedious presentations that run more than 12 minutes is likely to put your drivers to sleep.
- Periodic reminders to all drivers to remain vigilant and to refresh basic understanding of the potential consequences of crashes (personal well being, etc.) can help bolster your communication plan.