Transportation

Asleep at the Wheel

Drowsy driving is increasing liability for transportation companies, and increasing commercial auto rates as well.
By: | September 14, 2016 • 5 min read

Drowsy driving can be just as deadly as drunk driving ­— and the transportation industry is taking steps to combat this sometimes tragic problem.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 83,000 crashes each year are caused by driver drowsiness. Motor carriers, transportation companies and organizations with their own fleets are acutely aware of the tragedies that driver fatigue can cause, as well as the major financial and other losses that can result.

Michael Nischan, vice president, transportation and logistics risk control,  EPIC Insurance Brokers and Consultants

Michael Nischan, vice president, transportation and logistics risk control, EPIC Insurance Brokers and Consultants

Even if a driver is not at fault in a crash that results in serious injuries or fatalities, ultimately the company’s reputation is at stake, said Michael Nischan, vice president, transportation and logistics risk control at EPIC Insurance Brokers and Consultants in Atlanta.

The company may be ordered to pay for damages, especially if management did not properly vet the driver for a sleep disorder or if the driver’s medical certificate was expired.

“Damages from civil suits may not be covered by insurance, so whether the driver is at fault or not, the costly settlements may ultimately cause a company to go out of business,” Nischan said. “The key is to ensure the driver is qualified before hire and throughout employment, and that requires continuing dialogue and education throughout the organization.”

Rates on the Rise

Crashes involving driver fatigue have also impacted commercial insurance for fleets. Craig Dancer, Marsh’s U.S. transportation industry practice leader in Washington, D.C., said that rates in the insurance market had been soft when carriers were trying to get business and build volume, and underwriting, in some instances, may have been lax.

“So now we’re seeing premiums rise to support the carriers’ level of losses, and some markets have exited the trucking industry,” Dancer said.

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Underwriters wanting to write best-in-class are now looking to see whether organizations are using technology to make sure their drivers are performing optimally, he said. Underwriters are also looking to see if organizations are going down the regulatory checklist on how to deal with sleep apnea.

“The proactive motor carriers and transportation drivers have been addressing sleep apnea for a while now, and they have become really good at vetting drivers and adhering to fatigue management programs,” Dancer said.

Companies are conducting sleep studies and buying CPAP machines for drivers diagnosed with sleep apnea, which can have a huge impact on driver fatigue, said Todd Reiser, vice president and producer with Lockton’s transportation practice in Kansas City, Mo.

“A lot of motor carriers are trying to improve driver wellness, which correlates directly with driver fatigue,” Reiser said. “Truck driving is a sedentary job, and drivers tend to struggle with their health, whether it’s from occupational accidents or weight problems.”

The industry has also encouraged truck stops to provide healthier food alternatives, and trucking companies are implementing these alternatives at their own terminals, as well as exercise facilities, workout rooms, and nurses or physicians onsite to provide check-ups, he said.

Large trucking companies have terminals throughout the country in areas where they have a high concentration of business. Underwriters respond favorably to these types of programs.

Technology Use Increases Safety

Underwriters are also looking for anything from a technology perspective to make drivers safer, such as warning systems if a truck crosses the center line or drives onto the shoulder of the road, Reiser said. There is also collision mitigation technology that will stop or slow vehicles before a crash.

Todd Reiser, vice president, transportation practice,  Lockton

Todd Reiser, vice president, transportation practice, Lockton

Advanced technologies can help identify tired, drowsy or distracted drivers. Canadian-based Fatigue Science makes biometric wristbands that drivers wear, said Rich Bleser, fleet safety specialty practice leader for Marsh Risk Consulting in Milwaukee.

Australian-based Seeing Machines builds dash-mounted sensors with image-processing technology that tracks the movements of a driver’s eye, face, head and facial expressions to detect driver fatigue — and even distraction from doing things like texting.

Seeing Machines also provides in-cab driver alerts to prevent accidents, and 24/7 monitoring and data analytics so employers can improve practices.

The National Safety Council recommends drivers stop every 100 miles and walk around, Bleser said. Keep vehicle temperature cooler and drink ice water, because when the core body temperature is lower, the body’s “internal furnace” kicks in and builds energy to stay alert.

“If drivers are tired, they should not drink caffeine, because even if it makes a person feel that they are awake, caffeine can’t control micro sleep,” he said. “I recommend taking a 10- to 15-minute cat nap, if the driver can find a safe place to park their vehicle.”

Jenn Guerrini, executive commercial auto specialist at Chubb Transportation Liability in Whitehouse Station, N.J., said that driver fatigue can also be a problem for ridesharing companies, as they are not regulated like taxi cab drivers.

“For most of the drivers, this is their second or third job, and there is no regulation on hours of work and fitness of duty,” Guerrini said.

She said some organizations forbid employees to use ridesharing services from 1 a.m. to 4 a.m. while traveling.

For organizations with their own commercial fleets, they should track driving hours automatically in real-time by installing electronic logging devices registered and certified by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, she said. Such devices will be mandated by the end of 2017.

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Companies should also develop best practices for dispatchers, said Chris Reardon, vice president of transportation, warehousing and logistics practice at Assurance in Schaumburg, Ill.

“People are going to seek to put the fault on the motor carrier as well as the driver, but companies should be managing this issue at the dispatcher level as well because often, that is where hours of service issues originate,” Reardon said.

“Poor dispatching and load planning can lead to drivers feeling pressure from the dispatchers and management to get the trip done, regardless of the time constraints.”

He reminds clients of the widespread public scrutiny and even condemnation that could occur after crashes involving driver fatigue, citing comedian Tracy Morgan, who was hit by a Walmart driver who had been awake for more than 28 hours in 2014.

“There are always going to be drivers who don’t care about regulations, because they want to make the most money running the most miles,” Reardon said. “If the management of a company does not establish a culture of safety and compliance in the office or terminal, it will inevitably trickle down to the drivers as a result.” &

Katie Kuehner-Hebert is a freelance writer based in California. She has more than two decades of journalism experience and expertise in financial writing. She can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

2017 RIMS

RIMS Conference Opens in Birthplace of Insurance in US

Carriers continue their vital role of helping insureds mitigate risks and promote safety.
By: | April 21, 2017 • 4 min read

As RIMS begins its annual conference in Philadelphia, it’s worth remembering that the City of Brotherly Love is not just the birthplace of liberty, but it is the birthplace of insurance in the United States as well.

In 1751, Benjamin Franklin and members of Philadelphia’s first volunteer fire brigade conceived of an insurance company, eventually named The Philadelphia Contributionship for the Insurance of Houses from Loss by Fire.

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For the first time in America — but certainly not for the last time – insurers became instrumental in protecting businesses by requiring safety inspections before agreeing to issue policies.

“That included fire brigades and the knowledge that a brick house was less susceptible to fire than a wood house,” said Martin Frappolli, director of knowledge resources at The Institutes.

It also included good hygiene habits, such as not placing oily rags next to a furnace and having a trap door to the roof to help the fire brigade fight roof and chimney blazes.

Businesses with high risk of fire, such as apothecary shops and brewers, were either denied policies or insured at significantly higher rates, according to the Independence Hall Association.

Robert Hartwig, co-director, Center of Risk and Uncertainty Management at the Darla Moore School of Business, University of South Carolina

Before that, fire was generally “not considered an insurable risk because it was so common and so destructive,” Frappolli said.

“Over the years, we have developed a lot of really good hygiene habits regarding the risk of fire and a lot of those were prompted by the insurance considerations,” he said. “There are parallels in a lot of other areas.”

Insurance companies were instrumental in the creation of Underwriters Laboratories (UL), which helps create standards for electrical devices, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which works to improve the safety of vehicles and highways, said Robert Hartwig, co-director, Center of Risk and Uncertainty Management at the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina and former president of the Insurance Information Institute.

Insurers have also been active through the years in strengthening building codes and promoting wiser land use and zoning rules, he said.

When shipping was the predominant mode of commercial transport, insurers were active in ports, making sure vessels were seaworthy, captains were experienced and cargoes were stored safety, particularly since it was the common, but hazardous, practice to transport oil in barrels, Hartwig said.

Some underwriters refused to insure ships that carried oil, he said.

When commercial enterprises engaged in hazardous activities and were charged more for insurance, “insurers were sending a message about risk,” he said.

In the industrial area, the common risk of boiler and machinery explosions led insurers to insist on inspections. “The idea was to prevent an accident from occurring,” Hartwig said. Insurers of the day – and some like FM Global and Hartford Steam Boiler continue to exist today — “took a very active and early role in prevention and risk management.”

Whenever insurance gets involved in business, the emphasis on safety, loss control and risk mitigation takes on a higher priority, Frappolli said.

“It’s a really good example of how consideration for insurance has driven the nature of what needs to be insured and leads to better and safer habits,” he said.

Workers’ compensation insurance prompted the same response, he said. When workers’ compensation laws were passed in the early 1900s, employee injuries were frequent and costly, especially in factories and for other physical types of work.

Because insurers wanted to reduce losses and employers wanted reduced insurance premiums, safety procedures were introduced.

“Employers knew insurance would cost a lot more if they didn’t do the things necessary to reduce employee injury,” Frappolli said.

Martin J. Frappolli, senior director of knowledge resources, The Institutes

Cyber risk, he said, is another example where insurance companies are helping employers reduce their risk of loss by increasing cyber hygiene.

Cyber risk is immature now, Frappolli said, but it’s similar in some ways to boiler and machinery explosions. “That was once horribly damaging, unpredictable and expensive,” he said. “With prompting from risk management and insurance, people were educated about it and learned how to mitigate that risk.

“Insurance is just one tool in the toolbox. A true risk manager appreciates and cares about mitigating the risk and not just securing a lower insurance rate.

“Someone looking at managing risk for the long term will take a longer view, and as a byproduct, that will lead to lower insurance rates.”

Whenever technology has evolved, Hartwig said, insurance has been instrumental in increasing safety, whether it was when railroads eclipsed sailing ships for commerce, or when trucking and aviation took precedence.

The risks of terrorism and cyber attacks have led insurance companies and brokers to partner with outside companies with expertise in prevention and reduction of potential losses, he said. That knowledge is transmitted to insureds, who are provided insurance coverage that results in financial resources even when the risk management methods fail to prevent a cyber attack.

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This year’s RIMS Conference in Philadelphia shares with risk managers much of the knowledge that has been developed on so many critical exposures. Interestingly enough, the opening reception is at The Franklin Institute, which celebrates some of Ben Franklin’s innovations.

But in-depth sessions on a variety of industry sectors as well as presentations on emerging risks, cyber risk management, risk finance, technology and claims management, as well as other issues of concern help risk managers prepare their organizations to face continuing disruption, and take advantage of successful mitigation techniques.

“This is just the next iteration of the insurance world,” Hartwig said. “The insurance industry constantly reinvents itself. It is always on the cutting edge of insuring new and different risks and that will never change.” &

Anne Freedman is managing editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]