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ADAS in trucking: How insurance companies, attorneys are using fleet data

Oct. 7, 2021
Insurance underwriters are beginning to scrutinize whether motor carriers are implementing ADAS technologies, and they want better access to fleets’ safety data.

Through its Tech-Celerate Now program, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is encouraging the use of advanced driver assistance systems—though the agency is not yet mandating them. But even without a federal rule in place, transportation insurance providers want to know the exact safety technologies fleets have in place. They also are requiring more access to fleet safety data. 

The commercial transportation insurance industry traditionally has not offered front-end discounts on in-cab investments, but according to Andrea Dickinson, a transportation broker at Amwins Brokerage of Tennessee, that business model is beginning to change.

“In the past, typically you would only see the benefit of insurance savings once loss history improved or the cab got better,” Dickinson said during a webinar on ADAS technologies in trucking hosted by Partners for Automated Vehicle Education, FMCSA, and the Tech-Celerate Now program. “Now, I think a lot of insurance companies are recognizing the shift and the importance of data with the technology.”

Some of that shift is being played out in terms of upfront savings on insurance premiums if the right technology and agreements are in place, Dickinson explained. This is relatively new, she added, as just a handful of companies are starting to do this. But the insurers that are doing this are using that data in their underwriting.

Underwriters have begun asking their motor carrier clients whether they are buying and implementing ADAS technologies. Dickinson said it’s something that underwriters look at closely to potentially determine whether they will move forward with a policy.

“Today, if an insured [fleet] doesn’t have that kind of technology in their vehicles, underwriters almost won’t offer terms because they view that the insured isn’t investing in themselves and their own safety culture,” Dickinson noted. “It’s becoming more and more prevalent, and it’s almost the new norm if you will. Our underwriters are asking for this information and want to know the exact technology they have. They are asking for access to the data, especially for primary auto liability coverage.”

That data also is being used by attorneys in civil litigation suits. Rob Moseley, a founding partner at Moseley Marcinak Law Group, a national transportation and logistics law firm, has spent 30 years representing trucking companies and the transportation industry. He noted that data points—whether from an engine control module download or from an event recorder—are presented in practically every case today.

“It would be pretty rare today to see a truck accident case today that didn’t have at least some element of the technological data,” Moseley said during the webinar.

'More data creates more duty'

Fleets today generate an immense amount of data, and it is important that they know how to separate important data from insignificant data. Equally important is that fleets understand how data can be used against them.

“The problem the industry has today is there is so much data but there is no real interpretation of the data,” Moseley said. “In other words, [fleets] get all the data dumped on them, but they don’t really know what’s important and what’s not. For example, how many hard brakes is too many? How many lane departures is too many? What’s an acceptable number of driver errors, and what’s not?”

It’s getting to the point, Moseley added, where attorneys and insurance companies will look at the data and question why a fleet manager or dispatcher allowed a driver who might have been distracted, incapacitated, or just having a bad day on the road.

“You should have been so responsive to the data that you should have said, ‘What’s wrong with this guy,’” Moseley pointed out. “What happens every time you add another piece of technology to the vehicle? You add more data. More data creates more duty.”

As a trucking company is inundated with this data, management must make decisions based on that data, Moseley stressed. That could mean coaching a driver or dealing with equipment and maintenance issues.

“It puts this data in front of the motor carrier and requires a response,” he explained. “Unfortunately, where we are today, we just don’t have the studies to know what the response should be.”

Ultimately, Moseley said fleets must figure out what data they need to actively manage their drivers. Then, he recommended deleting the data after an issue has been resolved.

“Fleets have a way of saving everything and making good drivers seem like bad drivers,” he said. “I am a big fan of keeping what you need to actively manage that driver and then figuring out a way to delete information that is old and stale and doesn’t apply to the way the driver is driving the truck today.”

From an insurance perspective, Dickinson also noted that the technology and the data it provides motor carriers is only as good as what they are doing with it. She pointed to a case against a trucker where the fleet had cameras installed, had the information they needed to make a change, but didn’t do anything about it. Therefore, the insurance provider used that information against the carrier.

Dickinson also emphasized the importance of fleets organizing and properly managing the data they need to retain. She pointed to another situation where data helped exonerate a fleet and its driver.

Dickinson worked on a claim where a truck driver was involved in a crash with a four-wheel passenger car. The occupants of the passenger vehicle blamed the truck driver, telling a state trooper that the truck veered into their lane and hit them. The trooper took their word for it and cited the CDL driver for an at-fault accident.

When the trucking company went to defend the loss, they presented camera footage that clearly showed the passenger vehicle crossing over the lane, with the CDL driver in his own lane the entire time.

“It not only exonerated them from that claim, they also took it to the local sheriff’s department and got that record removed from that driver’s motor vehicle record,” Dickinson noted.

And as technology continues to advance and plays out across the commercial trucking space, Moseley noted the industry is beginning to see more startup insurance companies that are using data to assign premiums based on how fleets and drivers operated yesterday.

“We are seeing the underwriting keep up with the technology, and these underwriters are mandating the technology even if FMCSA is not,” he said. 

About the Author

Cristina Commendatore

Cristina Commendatore was previously the Editor-in-chief of FleetOwner magazine. She reported on the transportation industry since 2015, covering topics such as business operational challenges, driver and technician shortages, truck safety, and new vehicle technologies. She holds a master’s degree in journalism from Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut.

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