In­surer at­trac­tion

The safety gains from telem­at­ics in truck­ing has not been lost on the in­surance in­dus­try and bro­kers in par­tic­u­lar

Australian Transport News - - Contents - WORDS D AVID B ARBELER

The safety gains from telem­at­ics in truck­ing has not been lost on the in­surance in­dus­try

There’s this young truck driver on the road, nine hours into a 12-hour shift. His eye­lids are heavy, droop­ing reg­u­larly over blood­shot eyes. His con­cen­tra­tion is wan­ing no­tice­ably. And then his truck veers off the road – safely, of course – cour­tesy of a prompt from an ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence ( AI) com­puter sys­tem that’s been watch­ing his eyes for signs of fa­tigue the en­tire shift.

“This is a revo­lu­tion­ary tech­nol­ogy,” Zurich Aus­tralia head of mo­tor un­der­writ­ing Nick Den­dri­nos says.

“It mon­i­tors your eyes the whole time – their shape, your pupils, where you’re fo­cus­ing – even if you’re wear­ing sun­glasses.

“And when it de­tects you’re fa­tigued, it buzzes the chair or sends out a beep say­ing ‘slow down, you need to pull over’.”

Den­dri­nos be­lieves the telem­atic-based tech­nol­ogy has al­ready saved lives, point­ing to an ex­am­ple where they have in­stalled this kit in their long-haul fleet.

“One driver in his mid-20s was do­ing a straight run north to Queens­land, and he was ob­vi­ously fa­tigued and this kit buzzed

“It mon­i­tors your eyes the whole time – even if you’re wear­ing sun­glasses”

his seat. He felt the buzz, pulled over, and then con­tin­ued his trip later.

“His mum rang the trans­port com­pany and said, ‘ You’ve helped save my son’s life’.”


This is but one ex­am­ple of the re­cent ad­vance­ments in telem­at­ics.

“Telem­at­ics is de­vices that are mon­i­tor­ing your ve­hi­cles and driver be­hav­iours,” Den­dri­nos ex­plains.

“When a com­pany in­vests in telem­at­ics, in im­prov­ing the safety and ef­fi­ciency of their fleet, that’s a com­pany an in­surance com­pany wants to be as­so­ci­ated with. You can re­ally see a swing within claims data us­ing this tech­nol­ogy.”

Fleet­sure busi­ness de­vel­op­ment man­ager Steven Hamil­ton says other ex­am­ples of telem­at­ics tech­nol­ogy in­clude ve­hi­cle track­ing – which also helps re­duce theft ex­po­sures – and dash cams to pro­vide an im­par­tial ad­ju­di­ca­tion of at-fault dis­putes.

“By em­brac­ing these tech­nolo­gies, a fleet op­er­a­tor will im­prove their ef­fi­ciency and bottom line,” Hamil­ton says.

How­ever, NTI chief un­der­writ­ing of­fi­cer Chris Hog­a­rty adds that telem­at­ics is only use­ful for fleet own­ers if it’s in­te­grated into the man­age­ment pro­cesses of the busi­ness – some­thing bro­kers should be mind­ful of when ad­vis­ing a mo­tor fleet com­pany to help add value.

“For ex­am­ple, if driver mon­i­tor­ing does not lead to per­for­mance man­age­ment feed­back and im­prove­ments in driver train­ing, then the power of that vis­i­bil­ity is lost,” he says.

GT In­surance man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Glenn Lam­bert agrees that ap­ply­ing what telem­atic data im­plies is a ma­jor chal­lenge for some fleet own­ers.

“Op­er­at­ing costs are in­creas­ing, man­age­ment of op­er­a­tional staff is never easy and prob­a­bly get­ting harder due to the driver short­age,” he says.


Per­haps a so­lu­tion to the driver short­age isn’t too far around the bend.

Big ad­vance­ments are be­ing made in the field of semi-au­ton­o­mous and au­ton­o­mous cars and trucks.

Look at Uber, for ex­am­ple. The rideshar­ing com­pany has never hid­den its goal of hav­ing a driver­less fleet in the fu­ture.

“We are al­ready in­sur­ing driver­less trucks and buses in spe­cific ap­pli­ca­tions,” Lam­bert adds. “The driver aids that are com­mon in pas­sen­ger cars – such as col­li­sion avoid­ance, lane guid­ance, sta­bil­i­sa­tion tech­nolo­gies and fa­tigue alerts – are al­ready in use in trucks and buses.”


One thing is cer­tain, how­ever, and that is with­out telem­at­ics and au­to­ma­tion, many fleet driv­ers find it dif­fi­cult to slow down of their own ac­cord.

“Driv­ers in gen­eral ap­pear to be tak­ing more risks. Our sta­tis­tics in­di­cate an in­crease in at-fault ac­ci­dents, par­tic­u­larly rear- end col­li­sions, with speed, fa­tigue and pos­si­ble me­chan­i­cal re­lated fail­ures in­volved,” Lam­bert says.

Hamil­ton adds: “The great den­sity of fast ur­ban high­ways and mo­tor­ways is see­ing an in­crease of av­er­age speed and, in turn, sever­ity in loss costs.”

Mean­while, Den­dri­nos notes that there’s also been a spate of fires over re­cent years.

“I’ve never seen so many truck fires. Mar­gins are squeezed so all of a sud­den they’re cut­ting cor­ners,” he says. “They’re us­ing cheap, in­fe­rior parts from over­seas.

“It’s also di­rectly linked, in my opin­ion, to ex­ces­sive wear and tear of brakes, hubs and tyres.”

Hog­a­rty warns that the trans­port sec­tor is highly com­pet­i­tive and an in­dus­try of tight mar­gins op­er­at­ing in an un­cer­tain reg­u­la­tory and eco­nomic en­vi­ron­ment.

“When the safety of op­er­a­tors or fi­nan­cial per­for­mance is com­pro­mised, this will tend to lead to in­creases in pre­mi­ums for those busi­nesses,” he says.


Tech­nol­ogy might be mak­ing ve­hi­cles safer, but it’s also con­tribut­ing to claims in­fla­tion, Den­dri­nos says.

“Claims in­fla­tion is some­thing that’s caught Aus­tralia and the in­dus­try glob­ally by sur­prise. It’s blown out ex­ces­sively to the tune of 10 per cent to 15 per cent over the last 12 to 24 months,” he says.

“A wind­screen used to cost $ 350 to $ 500 for re­pair. It can cost up to $ 2000 to $ 3000 now. Why? Be­cause of cal­i­bra­tion: you’ve got light sen­sors, rain sen­sors, all this stuff that’s con­nected to other sys­tems in the ve­hi­cle.”

There are two main as­pects to a reg­u­lar fleet in­surance pol­icy, Den­dri­nos says.

The first is cov­er­ing dam­age to your own ve­hi­cle, and the other is third-party prop­erty dam­age.

Pol­icy word­ings are usu­ally writ­ten to also in­clude down­time cover, loss of use, hir­ing of ve­hi­cles and free wind­screen re­place­ment, how­ever, tra­di­tional busi­ness in­ter­rup­tion in­surance isn’t gen­er­ally in­cluded in poli­cies.

Lam­bert adds that the pre­mium pool is in­ad­e­quate to meet the in­surance claims.

“The rea­sons why are many, but cer­tainly a change in op­er­at­ing en­vi­ron­ment/con­di­tions is one, in­suf­fi­cient un­der­stand­ing of the risk is an­other, plus an in­crease in weath­er­re­lated losses,” he says.

These is­sues all add up to one thing: bro­kers have a huge role to play for both fleet own­ers and in­sur­ers.

“Small fleets in par­tic­u­lar are run on price, how­ever in my ex­pe­ri­ence, the medium to larger fleets are look­ing for ad­vice,” Lam­bert says. “It’s a tough time in the in­dus­try for ev­ery­one but it’s a ter­rific op­por­tu­nity as well.”

And, as tech­nol­ogy con­tin­ues to evolve rapidly, ad­vice around risk as­sess­ment will only be­come more valu­able, Den­dri­nos adds.

“If you’re driv­ing a ve­hi­cle that’s in au­ton­o­mous mode and that ve­hi­cle has an ac­ci­dent, who’s go­ing to be at fault – you, or the man­u­fac­turer? That de­ter­mi­na­tion of li­a­bil­ity is tricky,” he says.

“So from that per­spec­tive, the role of an in­formed, val­ued bro­ker is go­ing to be­come a lot more prom­i­nent with this chang­ing land­scape.”

“When a com­pany in­vests in telem­at­ics, in im­prov­ing the safety and ef­fi­ciency of their fleet, that’s a com­pany an in­surance com­pany wants to be as­so­ci­ated with”

Above: Telem­at­ics has been cred­ited with en­hanc­ing safety on the roads and sav­ing lives Op­po­site top: Im­prov­ing tech­nol­ogy can aid a com­pany’s bottom line

Above: Zurich Aus­tralia head of mo­tor un­der­writ­ing Nick Den­dri­nos

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