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The role of fleet technology in reducing total cost of risk

At a glance

  • SMEs face an average of £6,000 in vehicle repair bills and five days of vehicle downtime every year
  • Beyond simply keeping premiums manageable, effective fleet risk management can significantly reduce the total cost of risk (TCOR) for SMEs
  • We look at the latest technology available to help SMEs reduce fleet risk and keep vehicles on the road

According to Department for Transport figures, more than a quarter of road traffic collisions in the UK involve a vehicle being driven for work.

Such collisions can have a damaging impact on businesses. SMEs, for example, face an average of £6,000 in vehicle repair bills and five days of vehicle downtime every year. Businesses with larger fleets can face far higher bills.

Fortunately, a raft of digital solutions have become available in recent years – including virtual training and online fleet management and safety technology – much of which has the potential to transform fleet risk for SMEs.

Changing technology

Louise Kerrigan, Motor and Casualty Team Leader, Zurich, says: “Telematics and vehicle safety technology is far more accessible now than it ever has been, and we’re starting to see increasing numbers of app-based solutions available on the market.”

Any telematics solution should capture the key driver behaviours: harsh braking; lane-changing; cornering; fatigue; speed vs posted speed; harsh acceleration; and distractions. App-based telematics solutions recognise the need to capture as many of these behaviours as possible, especially distraction and fatigue.

“Even simple apps are becoming more sophisticated at detecting whether a driver’s mobile phone has been used during a journey, and whether it was used for an app, a phone call or a text.” says Louise. More advanced telematics solutions are also exploring facial recognition to monitor driver fatigue – with alerts sent to the management team if any fatigue events are detected, enabling the manager to intervene accordingly.

Importantly for SMEs, much of the best new driver assistance and safety technology is already being fitted as standard in modern vehicles. Since 2009, the European New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP) has established a star rating to determine vehicle safety credentials. With manufacturers competing for a 5-star rating and the cost of technology falling, it is not always necessary to retrofit a lot of expensive equipment.

Louise explains: “SMEs should always investigate the Euro NCAP rating for their vehicles prior to purchasing. The website shows vehicles by safety ranking, and explains which safety systems are fitted as standard. There is a lot of information available to help customers, and not all technology is prohibitively expensive.”

It would also be a mistake to think of fleet safety technology as something that only exists inside a vehicle. Zurich’s online driver safety partner, eDriving, has developed Virtual Risk Manager (VRM), which is designed to provide fleet managers with a driver risk management programme, involving everything from predictive risk assessment tools that look at a driver’s attitudes, knowledge and behaviour, to the communication of expected driving best practices.

Elsewhere, eDriving’s Mentor telematics app – which can be added as a component of VRM – will monitor driver behaviours and send relevant training courses direct to the driver’s phone, based on the driving behaviours exhibited. It is the only current app-based system that has this capability.

SME take-up

Despite pricing models changing – with many providers now offering free solutions – fleet technology is not always adopted by SMEs.

“Many SMEs still expect telematics to be a silver bullet, delivering immediate results, and are then disappointed when their return on investment (ROI) is not achieved,” says Louise. “This simply doesn’t happen. Instead, fleet technology should be seen as part of the wider risk management programme.”

Limited take-up could also be the result of a lack of knowledge among SMEs of exactly what is available. This situation isn’t helped by the confusing way some manufacturers label their products, with different brand names often used for the same technology. Bodies like NCAP provide useful glossaries and resources for making sense of the technologies on the market.

Considering the total cost of risk

For SMEs to make the most of fleet safety technology, there needs to be a step away from thinking purely in terms of premiums. Louise explains: “SMEs need to consider the total cost of risk (see boxout) and how much difference technology can make to safety generally. If people are driving more safely, they are less likely to crash, and they will also typically use less fuel. This could result in reduced management time investigating crashes and improved miles per gallon.”

When a crash occurs, there is much more than the damage to the vehicle and a potential increase in future insurance premiums to consider. In the event of an injury to an employee, time off work can be particularly costly, especially for SMEs.

Significant resources will also need to be invested in sourcing vehicle replacements and managing paperwork, and this is all before considering factors like the fuel savings delivered through more cautious driving.

Combining technology with organisational change

It is important to remember that fleet technology is not the answer to everything. As Louise points out: “It’s not as simple as putting telematics in and thinking that will improve driver performance – it needs to be part of the wider risk management structure.” For example:

• Are operational processes contributing to unsafe driving?
• Is a driver on a ‘job and finish’ schedule that could encourage risky driving?
• Are managers aware of the risks when their employees are driving for work?

If a business is going to invest in technology to generate the ROI, it’s crucial the data is used and individual driver interventions are deployed. Training on the telematics system should be provided to drivers and managers, with roles and responsibilities clarified. Managers should have interventions available to them to help improve the driving behaviour of their employees.

At whatever stage of the journey SMEs are on, Zurich is here to give impartial fleet technology support and advice.

For more information on any of the subjects discussed in this article, please speak with your usual Zurich contact.

Image © Getty

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