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In-car tech deskilling drivers at ‘detriment of road safety’, say fleets

Cost, green credentials and technology are key drivers for fleet managers but many have concerns over the knock-on effects of increased in-vehicle technologies.

Council parking profits hit new record

More than 70% of fleet managers surveyed either agreed or strongly agreed that technologies such as parking sensors deskill drivers to the detriment of driver safety

A new report on ‘Fleet Managers, the pressures, challenges and opportunities’, released by Allianz, finds that more than 70% of fleet managers surveyed either agreed or strongly agreed that technologies such as parking sensors deskill drivers to the detriment of driver safety.

It’s the latest research to show concerns over the impact of increased driver technologies – with some fleet and road safety organisations expressing concerns over driver distraction.

A survey by Venson Automotive Solutions published last week found that 68% of drivers have noticed an increase in other drivers being distracted by dashboard controls or using their mobile phones, despite only 13% admitting to being distracted themselves.

And the recently announced roads policing review – which will explore ways of reducing road casualties and deaths after a plateau in recent years – includes a call for evidence on in-car technology and how this could be increasing accident risks alongside reducing them.

Research by the UK’s Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) has also called for technology advances to cut driver distraction.

In the Allianz research, while more than half (53%) of fleet managers think that advanced vehicle technologies will deliver road safety benefits, 35% agreed that if autonomous vehicles become more commonplace, the number of insurance claims will increase.

The research – carried out online among 100 fleet managers – highlights a growing need for operators to ensure drivers are fully aware of technology features in their vehicles and how they should be correctly used.

Encouragingly, the research conducted by Allianz found that 78% of fleet managers feel they are able to offer their drivers the level of support and training they need to help them drive more safely. However, alongside the 22% that don’t provide enough support, 70% say they’d like to dedicate more time to explore the support that’s available.

Gerry Ross, head of motor, Allianz Insurance, commented: “As our roads and the vehicles using them change over the next decade these technological advances need to be used appropriately. Fleet managers need to ensure that their drivers understand the capabilities of the vehicles to maximise the benefits the additional safety features bring. It’s important that fleet drivers use the available technology to their advantage to supplement their professional skills.

“Insurers and brokers are a great source of risk management information and support,” added Ross. “As well as providing advice to reduce risk, they can analyse claims data to help fleet managers prioritise where they should take action. Given the changes and opportunities ahead, it’s essential that fleet managers, brokers, insurers and vehicle manufacturers work together. By sharing knowledge, experience and insight it will ensure that fleet managers are able to minimise the risks and maximise the benefits for their fleets, their drivers and other road users.”

The Allianz research also found that fleet managers face a number of pressures and challenges, alongside ensuring the health and safety of their drivers and other road users. Other concerns include addressing environmental concerns and meeting their organisation’s financial targets.

In particular, 71% of respondents said the cost of vehicle repair influences the choice of vehicles in their fleet. Being green is also a key factor with 56% making choices around the composition of their fleet based on protecting the environment.

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for nearly 20 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day.