Costs related to on-the-job motor vehicle accidents (MVA) are expected to drop as workers drive less frequently due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an analysis produced by the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI).
“COVID-19 continues to impact the economy and behaviors in both temporary and potentially systemic ways. Overall, MVA-related [workers compensation] system costs in 2020 are projected to be reduced due to COVID-19 and therefore, potentially offset other COVID-19-related costs,” NCCI said in its report.
Motor vehicle accidents remain a key driver of workers compensation costs, since lost-time claims associated with auto accidents tend to cost over 80% more than the average. While other types of work-related injuries have trended downward in recent years, data from NCCI showed a significant increase in MVAs between 2011 and 2016.
During the first months of the pandemic, reductions in miles driven between March and May ranged from 20% to 40%, according to NCCI, and the decline in miles driven appeared to be continuing through June. Even with differing shelter-in-place restrictions among states, the mileage trends could be seen across the 38 states reporting to NCCI.
However, NCCI reported an uptick in MVA fatalities in June, even though the mileage decline continued. This could be explained by a return to more typical seasonal trends – NCCI noted that summer months usually result in more miles driven and more MVA fatalities. Federal and state safety officials also cited a rise in driving speeds and a record number of speeding tickets during the first few months of the pandemic.
While heightened demand for deliveries will keep commercial trucking fleets busy, much of the reduction in business travel, daily commuting, and lower demand for buses and taxis should be expected to continue indefinitely, according to NCCI.
“Technology has allowed many workers to perform their jobs while working remotely. This transition could lead to a permanent decline in mileage for a portion of the workforce. Historically, workers in the office and clerical related classifications (i.e., industry group) have accounted for more than 10% of WC MVAs. To the extent workers in this industry segment continue to work remotely, it is reasonable to believe this may exert downward pressure on the number of work-related MVAs,” NCCI commented in its report.
NCCI predicted disruption of the “historically consistent” statistics of the number of workers compensation claims compared with miles driven and the number of workers compensation MVA fatalities compared to all MVA fatalities. This could prove challenging to workers compensation insurers looking to anticipate the long-term impact of the pandemic on commercial driving trends.
NCCI also projected an impact from the recession on workers compensation. In the past, recessions have typically resulted in fewer motor-vehicle fatalities as travel drops. Another recent report from NCCI found the pandemic’s impact on employment levels in the U.S. will take “months or even years” to be restored to pre-pandemic levels, “especially for the states and economic sectors hardest hit, and some jobs will not come back at all.”
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