The trucking practices group of a major risk management insurance firm is rolling out a certification program for safe fleets, promising better rates to those whose safety performance is at least 15% higher than the national average.

Aon Risk Services, the retail brokerage and risk management unit of Aon Corp., has developed SafeFleet Certification, a three-tiered recognition system for fleets that beat the national average for safety performance.

According to the company, the statistics come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, for lost time due to injuries, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, for total crash data. Fleets that score 35% better than the trucking industry average earn Gold certification, 25% better Silver certification, and 15% better Bronze certification.

“SafeFleet has been in the works for about 18 months now,” David Mitchell, director of risk control and safety for Aon’s trucking practices group, told FleetOwner. “A lot of other industries have an accreditation process, but there really isn’t one in trucking. These things are usually done by a third party who understands the industry but isn’t directly involved in it.

“This is not an activity-based certification,” Mitchell added. “Other industries, such as health care, have certain protocols they want you to follow. This is solely based on performance.” He added that only about 15% of trucking companies meet the certification standards.

According to Mitchell, there are eight benchmarks measured to determine fleet safety--covering compliance, crash performance and workplace injury performance, among other factors.

The question all fleets will be asking is how being certified will help them financially. According to Mitchell, Aon will use its influence to get customers better deals. “We have notified our underwriting communities about the program, insurance or reinsurance, and we are hoping for favorable treatment,” he said. “It’s going to come in different ways, such as lower rates. Also, being SafeFleet-certified is a benefit when there is a claim and somebody’s responsibility comes into question. Certified companies will have a superior defense.”

However, because the safety data comes directly from federal sources and the government statistics do not differentiate between large and small operations, all fleets will be in the same category, whether they have 20 trucks or 20,000. Also, none of the statistics cited relate to fault, simply involvement in accidents.

The damage done by the crashes, however, is tangibly measured, and Aon believes the most important thing is to concentrate on reducing heavy-damage incidents. “Small crashes are frequent, and their frequency may cause fleets to worry about these things more than they should,” he said. “But 10% of crashes lead to 75 to 80% of costs. If you really want to reduce costs, those more severe incidents should be the top priority.”

Mitchell said that Aon looks at all crashes that lead to losses over $15,000, and discovered most of these incidents involved experienced drivers, not novices. He commented that as drivers become more experienced, they may become more comfortable with unsafe habits.

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