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Survey of motorists’ reckless behavior should be wake-up call for commercial fleets, Travelers says

Supposedly safer US roads during pandemic made drivers more comfortable doing dangerous stuff, Travelers’ study finds

For years, the trucking industry has argued that motorists have been the chief culprits behind crashes that involve large commercial vehicles. A survey from insurance giant The Travelers Cos. (NYSE:TRV) of motorist behavior during 2020 won’t do anything to dispel the truckers’ claims or concerns.

The 2021 Travelers Risk Index, a survey of 1,001 U.S. motorists conducted in January, found that one-quarter of respondents thought that American roads were safer after the COVID-19 pandemic reached the U.S. in March 2020 than they were before then. Emboldened by what a Travelers executive said was a dangerous misconception, an increasing number of drivers engaged in high-risk behavior that might seem incomprehensible to most American motorists.

For example, 17% of respondents said they had shopped online while their vehicles were in motion, up from 8% pre-pandemic. About 19% said they took videos or pictures with their mobile devices while they were in motion, up from 10% before the pandemic, according to the survey. 

In other actions that were high-risk but still seemed more in line with today’s realities, 26% reported that they texted and emailed while driving last year, up from 19% before the pandemic. About 20% checked social media platforms while driving, up from 13% before the pandemic, the survey found.

Chris Hayes, assistant vice president of workers compensation and transportation, risk control at Travelers, said in a phone interview that the findings should give commercial drivers and fleet operators significant pause, especially with Memorial Day approaching and with more Americans hitting the road on the first major long-weekend observance since COVID-19 vaccines became widely available. More than 37 million people are expected to travel at least 50 miles from home over the long weekend, up 60% from last year, according to data from AAA.

For commercial fleets, the findings, which show that high-risk behavior is becoming more commonplace, indicate that “your hiring, management and coaching [of drivers] needs to be more locked down than ever before,” Hayes said.

The survey showed that motorists, perceiving they were operating in a safer road environment due to the pandemic, felt comfortable in taking more risk while mobile, Hayes said. However, that perception was faulty, he said. Though there may have been fewer vehicle-miles traveled with more employees working from home or other remote locations, the National Safety Council still reported an 8% increase in road fatalities in 2020 over 2019, Hayes noted. That’s because fewer vehicles on the road fostered more speeding and distracted driving, which, in turn, led to more incidents, he said. The recent study focused on trends in distracted driving.

Mark Solomon

Formerly the Executive Editor at DC Velocity, Mark Solomon joined FreightWaves as Managing Editor of Freight Markets. Solomon began his journalistic career in 1982 at Traffic World magazine, ran his own public relations firm (Media Based Solutions) from 1994 to 2008, and has been at DC Velocity since then. Over the course of his career, Solomon has covered nearly the whole gamut of the transportation and logistics industry, including trucking, railroads, maritime, 3PLs, and regulatory issues. Solomon witnessed and narrated the rise of Amazon and XPO Logistics and the shift of the U.S. Postal Service from a mail-focused service to parcel, as well as the exponential, e-commerce-driven growth of warehouse square footage and omnichannel fulfillment.

5 Comments

  1. Four wheelers are the problem? They are the least of my concerns out here. Just the other day, I was pulling my trailer, with EXPLOSIVE placards, rolling down the OH TP… I enter construction, left lane closed, two right lanes open to traffic, around 10 am, lite traffic, gorgeous day, speed limit is 65. From the minute I entered the construction, around the 100mm, I had another truck sucking my bumper, he was so close I could not even see his mirrors. I have EXPLOSIVE placards on the trailer. Somewhere around the 116 the tailgater, in broken English, asks me, “Why you drive so slow through construction?”… The speed limit is 65 in an active construction zone. My speedometer is reading 63mph, I normally drive slower for fuel economy. I laid into this bastard, a few choice words later, dead silence. He got off at the 118. Four wheelers? HAH!

  2. And yes, I was in the far right lane, there was ample opportunities for this clown to pass me, instead he felt it necessary to push me down the road, like in one of those Russian YouTube videos… None of the other trucks out there that day had an issue with me driving 2 mph under the posted speed limit, with my trailer loaded with EXPLOSIVES.

  3. Reckless driving is simply intolerable nowadays. Especially if you are driving a heavy vehicle. At that period you must be careful to avoid any nonprofessional activities. A message from auto parts discount coupons

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  5. I agree 110%! Most 4-wheelers are absolute IDIOTS. My ol man told me all about it when he was a [CMV] driver. I laughed at the time. Now I’m driving truck – not laughing any more. Do any of them actually THINK while they’re behind the wheel?!? I’m convinced my driving career will include some dumbass dying because they took a chance they shouldn’t have. There are at least 10 people still alive today because of my having evaded their STUPIDITY on the highway. Walking around oblivious…

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