Preparing for less favorable driving conditions is critical for any business moving products and components, and the folks at Travelers Insurance and Northland Transportation took time to cover some tips to help your company this winter.

THOUGH?THE?EAST?COAST EXPERIENCED?UNSEASONABLY?WARM?WEATHER earlier this season, forward-thinking distribution executives know inevitable wintery conditions likely are on the way. Preparing for less favorable driving conditions is critical for any business moving products and components, and the folks at Travelers Insurance and Northland Transportation took time to cover some tips on how to best prepare, including the costs and benefits of a safety program and ways to measure its effectiveness. Daniel Brown, Travelers’ risk control technical manager, and Teri Greenwood, Northland Transportation’s chief underwriting officer, share their insights.

WHAT ARE IMPORTANT BUT LESSER KNOWN FACTORS FOR DISTRIBUTION EXECUTIVES TO KNOW ABOUT?

Brown: Bad weather can wreak havoc on delivery schedules and awareness for how winter conditions may affect their drivers is a must for distribution executives. It’s important to plan for potential delays and not pressure drivers to complete deliveries at the sacrifice of safety. Drivers may also be more susceptible to illness and fatigue during the winter months. Fleet managers need to be on the lookout for drivers who are not feeling well or who may be excessively tired, and drivers should be cautioned about using over-the-counter cold medications as they may impact their ability to maintain alertness.

For drivers themselves to be prepared for the risks which winter driving brings, they need to understand that their skill and judgment may be tested when adverse weather is a factor. Providing a short winter driving awareness training session is one way that management can help prompt drivers to start thinking about these challenges and ways to manage them.

CAN YOU TELL ME A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR FLEET SAFETY PROGRAM – INTELLIDRIVE FOR CUSTOMERS?

Brown: Onboard safety monitoring systems, or telematics, are playing a growing role in fleet safety. These systems are now helping fleet managers understand where their vehicles are located, and when used to their full potential, these systems also shed light on whether vehicles are being operated safely. Travelers’ Intellidrive program is designed to help customers understand the benefits that can come from monitoring driver performance. When this performance data is used to recognize positive, desired driving behaviors as well as provide constructive feedback and coaching for undesirable behavior, drivers may become more aware of their driving habits and how they can become safer, more efficient drivers. Risk control consultants from Travelers often work with customers to help them build effective fleet safety programs. In addition to on-site consulting, we have a range of fleet safety resources on our Prepare and Prevent website (travelers.com/prepare-prevent) and the ability to conduct tailored one-on-one consulting on a variety of risk management topics through web-based teleconferencing.

WHAT ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT ELEMENTS OF AN EFFECTIVE SAFETY PROGRAM FOR DRIVERS?

Brown: A safety program’s success largely depends on who is driving the company’s vehicles. Fleet managers need to focus on ensuring that vehicles are operated by experienced, safe and qualified drivers. That means setting high standards for past driving experience, qualifications and safety performance. Holding drivers accountable can be accomplished by putting a system in place that reviews driver performance and helps to ensure drivers continuously meet those standards.

Managing driver performance is critical. In the past, this may have been challenging as it was more difficult to gather information on whether drivers were truly driving safely. Technology is revolutionizing how companies manage drivers, and with telematics systems, managers can gather more information to determine if drivers are distracted, speeding or driving aggressively and then work on managing those behaviors.

Creating a company culture centered on safety can help reinforce its importance. Take distracted driving, for example. Implementing a policy is the first step, but to enhance its effectiveness, managers need to support the policy by not calling to speak with drivers while they are on the road and following the policy when they themselves drive.

HOW CAN EXECUTIVES BEST MEASURE THE ECONOMIC BENEFITS – AND HELP JUSTIFY THE COSTS – OF IMPLEMENTING A DIFFERENT OR UPGRADED SAFETY PROGRAM?

Brown: Measuring the benefits of a safety program can take time. It starts by analyzing loss experience to identifywhere the biggest improvements can be made. Focus on these areas and measure future loss experience to gauge if changes are having the intended affect and providing benefits. For most companies that operate fleets, the greatest exposure to loss comes from vehicle crashes. Even minor crashes can cost thousands of dollars, so there can be a big return on investment if a program can reduce the frequency and severity of vehicle crashes even by a small amount.

Most crashes are the result of driver error, and more specifically, behaviors such as speeding, tailgating and distracted driving. Technology that can help identify and manage these behaviors can be a good investment. Collision avoidance technologies, such as adaptive cruise control with automatic braking, are also worth investigating. They can help alert drivers to hazards around them and avoid dangerous situations that can lead to serious crashes.

CAN SUCH PROGRAM AFFECT COSTS?

Greenwood: Businesses that have lower loss frequency will have lower expected loss costs, which can translate into lower premiums. Of course, safety programs are just one element of the insurance underwriting process. Other considerations include, among other characteristics, vehicle maintenance, driver hiring and management processes, and route management. The most effective safety programs are designed to target specific procedures and behaviors that will have a positive impact on loss experience. These programs need to be actively managed and followed in order to achieve the desired results. An evaluation of safety programs is a consideration in the insurance underwriting process.

IS IT WORTHWHILE FOR MANUFACTURING AND DISTRUBTION EXECS TO RECONSIDER INSURANCE POLICIES SEASONALLY?

Greenwood: Most businesses will require use of their vehicles throughout the year as their operations do not fluctuate enough to merit a seasonal approach. Businesses that do not own any vehicles and that lease or hire vehicles on a temporary basis to meet seasonal demands could benefit from a seasonal policy

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