Fleets may be missing opportunities to reduce the cost of accidents by millions of dollars, according to Luann Dunkerley, The CEI Group's manager of business development for truck fleet services.

That's the message Dunkerley gave to a gathering of private truck fleet executives in Jacksonville, Fla., at a meeting of the National Private Truck Council Institute's safety committee.

Dunkerley said that even among the most advanced truck fleets, a large percentage of collision repair expenses aren't traced to documented accidents. "A number of fleets don't track incidents for small damages, but they can add up to a big number," she said, citing an example of one major fleet that doesn't track damages less than $325.

She said that keeping cumulative records of minor damage, such as broken mirrors or cracked bumpers, could alert fleet managers to change to equipment more resistant to damage.

According to figures released by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, in 2009 property damage-only collisions cost commercial vehicle operators $5 billion, or about $15,000 per accident. "You can't manage what you don't measure," Dunkerley said.

According to Dunkerley, other challenges to accident cost control include:

- Assigning repairs to distant collision repair shops where the carrier rarely does business. The result can be longer repair times, higher costs to rent replacement vehicles, low-quality repairs and "surprise supplements" for costly repairs not covered in initial estimates.

- Failure to pursue recovery for damages caused by third-party divers. While nearly 75% of all truck crashes are caused by other drivers, the daily urgency of running a truck fleet often keeps staff from vigorously pursuing collections from at-fault drivers. "Our experience shows that you can collect more than 90 per of what you're due on well-documented claims in as little as three weeks to three months."

As a potential solution, Dunkerley suggested outsourcing to third-party companies that specialize in accident management, with formalized reporting procedures, managed repair networks and dedicated loss recovery departments.