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Reduced highway traffic during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis has lowered the risk of crashes, but this silver lining of the pandemic has provided only a temporary reprieve for trucking companies that have seen escalating insurance costs in recent years.
When the coronavirus outbreak first took hold in North America, miles traveled by the general public on the nation’s highways plummeted in the spring and early summer.
Much of the trucking industry saw miles drop, too, reducing exposure. For many fleets, slack demand during the early days of the pandemic meant more trucks parked against the fence, more drivers on furlough and fewer vehicles to insure.
Accident rates decreased as congestion declined, and truckers were able to reach their destinations with far fewer traffic-related delays.
While those conditions did temporarily reduce the risk of crashes, trucking insurance experts said the broader landscape for insurance and risk management in the commercial transportation industry has not changed permanently.
“We saw … a definite decrease in April and May in reportable frequency of accidents due to [less] traffic on the road and not nearly as much congestion. But that has normalized into the fall,” said Matt Payne, senior vice president and transportation team leader at Kansas City, Mo.-based insurance brokerage firm Lockton Cos.
Less traffic in congested “hot spots” known for higher accident rates has been a positive, said Greg Feary, president and managing partner of Scopelitis, a transportation law and insurance firm with about 5,000 transportation-related clients in the United States.
“In densely populated urban areas … you could make an argument that COVID-19 has created a better delivery environment because it’s easier to get in and out [of those areas],” Feary observed. “Everything from serious accidents [to] fender benders has been reduced.”
Yet overall, Feary does not