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How to Use Telematics to Reduce Insurance Costs

By Rod Sutton, Editorial Director | February 8, 2021
A bulldozer.

Insurance companies offer usage-based insurance (UBI) in the automotive industry, but heavy equipment managers will probably not find anything similar for several years. UBI uses telematics to tie insurance costs to the way a vehicle is operated.

Equipment managers may still benefit from telematics data from their heavy equipment and work trucks, according to fleet safety specialists at Travelers, by using the data to guide efforts in coaching operators and drivers to change behaviors. Fleets that reduce behaviors that lead to accidents can lessen the frequency (and associated costs) of accidents and may eventually reduce their premiums for insurance of construction equipment.

“Based on numerous studies I have seen, companies can reduce the frequency of accidents in a year by 30 to 40 percent with effective coaching based on telematics data,” says Bob Bringgold, director of transportation safety for Travelers. “A driver with poor driving habits may not have had an accident that will show up on a Motor Vehicle Record (MVR). Telematics can provide real-time and current feedback to help identify risky driving behaviors and allow management to coach drivers to help improve their driving performance.”

Bringgold works with Travelers customers to help them develop fleet safety programs, and his team spends about half of their time with construction accounts.

“We tell our customers that before they move into using telematics for coaching, they need to build a foundation,” Bringgold says. “They need to look at three critical items and have those as their basis before building out their more advanced safety program.”

First, Bringgold says a fleet manager should identify all the drivers within the organization. Managers need to understand who is driving on behalf of the company to make sure they are not missing driver vetting and training gaps. Then, the fleet should establish performance criteria so that drivers know what is expected of them. This can also help to identify where improvements are needed. Third, the drivers must be held accountable for their performance and fully engage in a culture of driver safety.

“If the company’s policy says a driver who has more than two accidents in a 24-month period will have a change in their driving responsibilities, and a driver has two accidents,” Bringgold says, “then follow through on your company policy to, for example, move them into a different position for 12 to 24 months until their record clears up.

“Once fleet managers establish the foundation, coaching based on this foundation can become more readily accepted by the drivers.”

In advising clients on safety and risk management, Bringgold says telematics is part of the discussion; however, the core components of a foundation for driver safety should be present to make telematics, and coaching based on telematics, more effective. 

“If companies rush telematics ahead of their basic building blocks of their safety program, the use of the technology may send mixed messages and drivers could rebel,” he says. “They won’t understand why they’re getting the feedback and that the feedback’s there to help them. Companies that effectively use telematics data for coaching are not only identifying risky behaviors, but also are praising their drivers for their good habits.”

Most telematics systems can provide fleet managers with approximately 30 data points. Bringgold advises customers to identify their biggest concerns with driver behavior, then focus on the one or two key data points that address them. As coaching improves behavior, the fleet manager can look at additional data points.

“Telematics isn’t a data solution, it’s a tool for management to coach their people,” Bringgold says. “When using this technology for fleet safety, it’s important to identify what data is most meaningful for your organization and driver coaching efforts, and to avoid the trap of overwhelming managers, and ultimately drivers, with too much data.”

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