By Richard Tackett
When Chuck Abbott signed on as CEO of Gray Line of Tennessee, Nashville, TN, in early 2015, one of his first orders of business was exploring options for a new insurance provider. More than anything, the reason was a combination of rate escalation and a desire for more proactive attention on claims management from the company’s previous carrier.
In business since 1972, Gray Line of Tennessee is now the 22nd largest motorcoach company in the U.S. It provides sightseeing, group tours, casino trips and coach rentals to all of Tennessee. Furthermore, the company’s popular Music City Hop, the original “hop on, hop off” tour in Nashville, stops at 15 locations with over 100 points of interest. This unique service features both trolleys and stunning open-top double-deckers.
Abbott spoke with George Anderson of Anderson Benson Insurance, longtime trusted insurance broker for Gray Line of Tennessee, about the deficiencies they both saw in the previous insurance plan.
“We saw a real lack of flexibility in the original carrier’s policy forms,” Anderson says. “It was hard to add or delete units depending on how busy the company was. Furthermore, there was a cash flow issue. You want to pay when you use and not pay when the buses are sitting in the dead of winter several weeks – and that’s what Gray Line was doing.”
Anderson presented the company with a number of options for new carriers, but Abbott and Gray Line settled on a company with which Anderson Benson Insurance already had a close relationship – Protective Insurance Company, located in Carmel, IN.
Protective has spent more than 80 years in the transportation industry. Licensed in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and all Canadian provinces, Protective provides specialized insurance coverage targeting charter and tour bus companies, school bus contractors and limousine services.
Immediately, Abbott and Anderson saw outstanding benefits in Protective’s policies. For one, the close relationship between Anderson Benson and Protective meant an ease of doing business when it came to adding or deleting units to a policy. Additionally, when it came to cash flow, Protective’s “pay as you use” policy was very attractive.
Protective’s team went to Nashville and conducted a risk assessment for Gray Line of Tennessee. More so than policy type or price, the team at Protective feels their biggest strength is the company’s ability to partner with clients and tailor policies to fit specific needs.
“At Protective, we take an enterprise risk management approach,” says Todd Carrier, vice president of sales at Protective. “Instead of coming in and pointing out the symptoms or issues that a company has in different areas, we try to take a higher-level view and look at it from a process perspective and a people perspective. We looked at the resources of Gray Line, the employees and what responsibilities those employees had. We spoke in-depth with Chuck Abbott and his safety director about the company’s resources and the top management support needed to truly manage risk and promote safety.”
“They helped us to be proactive and understand that we’re all about prevention rather than research and investigation after an incident,” Abbott adds. “Their training and consulting is superb, but I really appreciated the fact that they came in and took the time to understand our business. Our Music City Hop tour features an open-top double-decker bus, which probably makes a lot of insurance guys cringe – but Protective actually came down to Nashville, rode the bus, and then helped us write operating procedures. They gave us first-hand perspective on what they thought about it.”
Together, Gray Line and Protective settled on two major initiatives that would go a long way toward reducing risk and increasing cost savings – a camera program and a safety-oriented corporate culture.
The Lytx DriveCam program
Gray Line immediately took advantage of Protective’s partnership with Lytx, and went to work installing the popular Lytx DriveCam on all of its buses.
The DriveCam exception-based video safety program combines video capture of road incidents such as hard braking or sudden swerving, data analysis of those incidents, and personalized coaching insights to improve driving behavior. Today, Lytx helps protect more than 650,000 commercial and government fleet drivers under its DriveCam program.
“We were actually looking at the DriveCam program before we selected Protective,” Abbott says. Both Protective and Lytx have been very helpful in helping us understand how to use that program to the fullest.”
DriveCam works with a dual-lens event recorder that captures video of the driver’s behavior at the time of the driving event. The captured video is delivered via cellular network to Lytx’s expert human review centers where it is reviewed, scored and analyzed and entered into a coaching dashboard along with data-driven insights to facilitate specific and personalized coaching.
Although there was an initial investment (developed with Protective) on the part of Gray Line to purchase and install the DriveCam equipment, the long-term reduction in accidents and driver-related events will more than recoup that investment.
Both Protective and Lytx stress that it’s not enough to simply have DriveCam units – the program as a whole must be followed, with follow-up and coaching involved. Gray Line took to this very quickly.
“We wanted to make sure they assigned a responsible person to review the DriveCam events,” says Scott St. Clair, regional sales manager at Protective Insurance. “It was very important to have internal policies and procedures in place for how they were going use the system.”
“It’s a common – and potentially dangerous – misperception that a dash cam will reduce risk, when really a dash cam is meant to provide video evidence in the event of a collision,” says Del Lisk, Lytx vice president of safety services. “The DriveCam program, instead, helps to prevent collisions in the first place by focusing on improving safe driving skills.”
Abbott says that Gray Line’s “daily dashboard” typically features five or six DriveCam event reviews with corresponding coaching.
“We have a consistent approach to viewing the DriveCam videos and material, and then routinely coaching those drivers,” he says. “We use that data to identify high-risk drivers and then counsel drivers accordingly.”
It was important for drivers to know that DriveCam isn’t punitive – it’s a coaching system aimed at driver retention. As with any kind of driver oversight program, there was of course some initial reluctance to embrace the new plan.
“DriveCam is an effective way to improve driving behavior; its objective is to retrain drivers to retain them, and we make that clear from the get-go,” Lisk says. “Our job starts before deployment, by helping clients communicate with drivers about the program, because we’ve found that open communication is the best way to minimize drivers’ concerns. We help clients by sharing best practices as they integrate DriveCam into their operations, and show them how to use the data to both coach and recognize their drivers.”
Gray Line of Tennessee linked DriveCam with an incentive program based on driver behavior outcomes. The addition of a financial reward helped drive acceptance and adoption throughout the company.
Because DriveCam makes the driver aware that an event has occurred, it has lead to a driver team at Gray Line that works proactively toward safety. Because they’ve had events occur in the past that lead to driver coaching, Gray Line drivers are actually seeking out their supervisors to discuss events which the supervisor hasn’t even reviewed yet.
“It’s really let Gray Line see who the strongest members of their driving team are, and reward them accordingly,” Anderson says.
Aside from creating stronger culture of safety among his drivers, Abbott says the cost savings realized by the partnership with DriveCam and Protective have been invaluable.
“Because we’re able to identify leading indicators, the coaching we provide is translating into real dollar savings,” he says.
“Organizations adopt the DriveCam program to lower risk and reduce costs associated with collisions,” Lisk says. “Our data shows that clients have experienced up to 80 percent reduction in claims costs and up to 50 percent reduction in collision frequency, sometimes in a matter of a few months.”
Shifting the culture
When it rains it pours—it just so happens that as Gray Line of Tennessee was switching insurance providers, they also hired a brand new risk management director. Rather than adding extra obstacles, however, Gray Line and Protective saw this as an opportunity to make their company culture as safe as it could possibly be.
“We were able to tie the objectives strategy of the safety department to the overall mission and the strategic plan of the company,” Carrier says. “We helped the safety department with key metrics for how they measure success, so that they were shifting away from being activity-based—like counting how many training sessions they completed, and toward being results-based—what impact did that training have?”
Personnel changes were an inevitable part of the company’s culture shift toward safety, as Protective and Lytx helped identify staff weaknesses.
“It was a pain point in our transition, identifying drivers for termination,” Abbott says. “But we did decide to terminate some drivers who weren’t meeting the standards of Protective’s policy – and, because of the culture change, they didn’t meet our standards either.”
The future is bright
The relationship between Gray Line of Tennessee, Protective and Lytx is stronger than ever. Recently, Abbott was considering purchasing new vehicles – vehicles different from anything covered in their plan. After Abbott consulted with Protective, St. Clair was able to work with Protective’s loss insurance and claims experts to help Gray Line develop a brand new driver training program, and perform a risk assessment of what would be needed prior to bringing those vehicles into the fleet.
“We got out ahead of it, rather than Gray Line calling us and saying, ‘Hey, I bought these two new buses, now what am I supposed to do?’” St. Clair says. “That’s crucial, and it shows that Gray Line has really adopted a safety and risk-oriented approach to their business.”
The Protective-aided investment in DriveCam technology showed the team at Gray Line that, with the right technology and procedures, they could realize additional levels of accountability and discipline from their driver workforce. To that end, the company just rolled out new processes for electronic logs and DVIRs.
“I think the momentum that we gained by having Protective come alongside us, educate us and offset the cost of DriveCam, paved the way for us to say, ‘Look, let’s go ahead and continue to use new technology to improve our business.’ That puts us in a really good place.”