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For many companies across the world, commercial motor fleets are an important part of how their business operates. Simon Kay, AXA XL’s Head of International Motor, and Halima Bekkali, a Motor Risk Consultant specialising in road safety, discuss some of the challenges involved in operating large fleets and how international insurance programmes can be used to help transfer some of those risks.

What are some of the challenges for risk managers whose companies operate large motor fleets?

Simon Kay: All companies that own and operate vehicles have two overarching challenges. First, they have duty of care obligations to ensure the safety and well-being of their employees and secondly to the public at large.

For our clients, ensuring the safety of their employees and other road users presents a specific challenge because these companies are not, per se, in the transport business; their employees are not what would be considered professional drivers.

In other words, while driving is an important if not essential element of their work, these employees were not generally hired for their driving prowess. In fact, it’s reasonably uncommon for a candidate’s driving record to be reviewed during the hiring process. This is changing, however.

The second overarching challenge is operational efficiency. As noted, corporate companies often have hundreds and sometimes thousands of vehicles. These are costly to operate and maintain and, in addition, the direct and—often considerable—indirect costs of accidents can have a significant drag on a company’s performance, corporate image and profitability.

Commercial vehicle fleets, like people, are unique. They all have different profiles and different problems and consequently insurance coverage, structure and servicing requirements need therefore to be very much tailor-made.

How do those challenges differ from client to client?

Halima Bekkali: We have a common interest that of improve safety, preserve the lives of drivers and reduce costs, but when you look under the hood – so to speak - their specific needs and priorities invariably will differ.

That’s why, whenever we start working with a new client, the first order-of-business is to conduct a comprehensive risk assessment to analyse the maturity of the client risk exposure and actions already implemented. This encompasses an in-depth look at the company’s recent and longer-term experiences, including its accident history, both frequency and severity, as well as its bodily injury and property damage losses. Our scope of analysis also applies to fines and other parameters related to indirect costs generated by the fleet. We also lead individual driver risk assessments which allows us to establish a profiling of each driver and identify high-, medium- and low-risky drivers.

I should also stress that while this is a fact-based exercise, the process itself—from data collection through to a review of our findings with the client—is highly interactive and helps us become more familiar with the client’s policies, operational procedures and, importantly, its culture. All that helps us understand more clearly where there are opportunities for improvement, both short- and long-term.

Once the analysis is done, how do you work with clients to improve safety and reduce costs?

Halima Bekkali: Again, there is no one-size-fits-all and each implementation plan is tailored to the client’s specific needs and circumstances.

In general, however, a core element of the programme is assessing each driver, or group of drivers, across the six competencies of safe driving: driver attitude, other motorists, danger zones, scanning, speed management and space management. That is enhanced in large part by the increasingly sophisticated telematics devices available today.

The next step is delivering targeted training to higher-risk drivers, based on their particular deficiency or deficiencies. That is carried out via interactive e-learning modules and videos, which can be supplemented, as appropriate, with training on a test track, hands-on workshops with simulators or similar events designed to promote awareness and build skills. Such activities can also help to instil and reinforce a safety-first culture within the organization.

How can international insurers help clients transfer some of the risks associated with operating large motor fleets?

Simon Kay: In most countries, motor third party insurance is obligatory.  This protects our clients from any motor liability that may arise through damage or bodily injury caused to a third party.

Risk managed corporate clients may wish to retain some of this motor third party exposure – generally the attritional claims - and transfer the severity claims to their insurer. Since our clients are typically large multinational or national companies, many also find that it more cost-effective to self-insure their first-party risk or own damage risk. 

AXA XL has four specialised hubs underwriting this business—in Paris, London, Zurich and Cologne. From these four hubs, domestic and international fleets are underwritten. The international exposure can potentially cover fleets worldwide (excluding the US and Canada); but for the time being our geographical exposure covers vehicles in more than 50 countries, including the major markets in Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and Africa, and Latin America.

Since motor insurance is highly regulated and legislation varies from country-to-country, this global footprint helps us stay abreast of the local requirements as well as local business practices and norms.

Dedicated claims servicing ability in each country is an important ingredient to success in any programme design and this is complimented by our ability to offer timely and tailor-made claims reporting to our clients.

Are there any future trends which risk managers with fleets are keeping an eye on?

Simon Kay: An intriguing trend to watch is how cities in different parts of the world, including in Paris where I work, are reimagining the role of cars in the urban environment. While that’s not a new development, the global COVID-19 pandemic has prompted a wave of bold initiatives around this issue. The social, environmental and health benefits of these schemes are appealing, and it will be interesting to see how this plays out in the future.

And we can’t overlook the effect of self-driving cars, as well as autonomous delivery vehicles, shuttle vans and the like, will have on commerce and daily life.

All in all, it is a very interesting time and the types of vehicles on the road, and where and how they are used, will no doubt continue to evolve. Nonetheless, the fundamental imperatives for risk managers and insurers alike as we discussed earlier—improving safety and managing costs—will very much remain, even as the dimensions of these challenges naturally also change. So, as we say in France, plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

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Global Asset Protection Services, LLC, and its affiliates (“AXA XL Risk Consulting”) provides risk assessment reports and other loss prevention services, as requested. This document shall not be construed as indicating the existence or availability under any policy of coverage for any particular type of loss or damage. AXA XL Risk. We specifically disclaim any warranty or representation that compliance with any advice or recommendation in any publication will make a facility or operation safe or healthful, or put it in compliance with any standard, code, law, rule or regulation. Save where expressly agreed in writing, AXA XL Risk Consulting and its related and affiliated companies disclaim all liability for loss or damage suffered by any party arising out of or in connection with this publication, including indirect or consequential loss or damage, howsoever arising. Any party who chooses to rely in any way on the contents of this document does so at their own risk.

US- and Canada-Issued Insurance Policies

In the US, the AXA XL insurance companies are: AXA Insurance Company, Catlin Insurance Company, Inc., Greenwich Insurance Company, Indian Harbor Insurance Company, XL Insurance America, Inc., XL Specialty Insurance Company and T.H.E. Insurance Company. In Canada, coverages are underwritten by XL Specialty Insurance Company - Canadian Branch and AXA Insurance Company - Canadian branch. Coverages may also be underwritten by Lloyd’s Syndicate #2003. Coverages underwritten by Lloyd’s Syndicate #2003 are placed on behalf of the member of Syndicate #2003 by Catlin Canada Inc. Lloyd’s ratings are independent of AXA XL.
US domiciled insurance policies can be written by the following AXA XL surplus lines insurers: XL Catlin Insurance Company UK Limited, Syndicates managed by Catlin Underwriting Agencies Limited and Indian Harbor Insurance Company. Enquires from US residents should be directed to a local insurance agent or broker permitted to write business in the relevant state.