Driving with dashcams
It’s been more than a decade since trucking fleets began using dashcams to improve fleet safety, compliance and assistance in day-to-day operations. In the early days, truck driver pushback was a frustrating obstacle, especially in a tight labor market. Today, many fleets utilize both outward- and inward facing video recorders and driver acceptance has improved as fleets have become more transparent and proactive in how they manage the recorded data. The benefits include risk reduction, improved driver behavior, accident documentation, insurance incentives and cost efficiencies.
Josh Seiferth, Product Manager for Mack Trucks Low Cabover Engine, says Mack makes it simple for fleets to install dashcams in their trucks and many large fleets today choose to include that option. “Mack’s mission is to support our customers and to support a safe community. From a fleet perspective, it’s important to know how drivers are operating, in order to coach them on best safety practices,” Seiferth says. By offering a prep kit for a streamlined installation process, more fleets choose to install cameras.
Truck Driver acceptance
Craig Bennett, director of safety for Texas-based WM, says they were on the leading edge of deploying in-cab recorders and have seen driver acceptance evolve over time.
“In our experience, two things have really impacted driver acceptance over the last decade. The first has been our efforts to actively share when a driver has been exonerated in our fleet or when drivers exhibit positive behaviors. The second change is the increase in adoption of this technology industry-wide since we started our program. This has led to this type of technology being ‘part of the job’ for drivers across the industry,” Bennett says.
While it was initially a hard sell to convince drivers to accept this initiative, it has proven positive for them and for the company. The results have been remarkable.
“The fact that they showed a dramatic decrease in alerts created the positive results they continue to experience,” says Bryan Hoggan, Savage Vice President, Safety, Health and Environmental. “The increased coaching, tracking metrics and an overall culture of positive reinforcement went a long way toward increasing driver acceptance. Communicating exonerations, something that happens nearly every day, hit home. Word spread among drivers as many of them experienced firsthand the power of video proof.”
When fleets are fully transparent with the benefits of dashcams to both the fleet and the drivers, there is more buy-in among drivers. Here are some of the benefits that directly impact drivers and fleet owners.
Accidents not caused by the truck driver fall into two categories: unfairly accused drivers and fraudulent claims involving insurance scams.
With a “he said, she said,” situation, drivers may be accused of causing the incident when in fact, most accidents are the fault of passenger vehicles. According to the American Trucking Associations, (ATA), about 80% of truck accidents can be linked to a car driver’s mistake rather than the truck driver, and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) puts the numbers at closer to 90 percent caused by negligent motorists. Some of the leading accident causes include cars driving in the truck’s blind spot, turning left in front of a truck and unsafe merging. And then, there is the enormous issue of distracted driving, both by motorists and truck drivers.
The most startling statistics come from the numbers of motorists driving while texting and the National Safety Council reports that cell phone usage while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes each year. When an onboard video camera records the events, the costly time involved in an investigation to exonerate drivers is reduced. Since WM began using video event recorders, they have been able to exonerate drivers in hundreds of incidents.
“The ability to validate the facts surrounding an incident quickly and accurately, helps keep our drivers behind the wheel,” Bennett says.
Dashcams have evolved to include real time opportunities for coaching. Again, driver acceptance comes from rewarding good driving behavior along with coaching for improvement. Recorded events used in training new drivers can show rather than tell drivers how to drive proactively and highlight best safety practices. “WM has used video event recorder clips to train about the program and to train drivers about the ‘why’ our safety defensive driving system methods are so critical to safe operation. The use of these video events makes the training ‘more real’ and relatable to our frontline employees and helps employee acceptance when they see how the program benefits them,” Bennett says.
With the help of cloud-based platforms and mobile apps, fleet managers can easily access and review video footage, which enables them to monitor their fleet remotely and make decisions accordingly. The dashcam data enables safety managers to use metrics to reward top performers and to identify those that need more coaching.
Tackling distracted driving is one area where coaching with metrics makes a huge difference. Dashcams and associated driver safety software can issue in-cab alerts to drivers in the moment and drivers can self-correct and and/or be tagged for manager review and intervention.
Reporting software can analyze driver performance trends, issue progress reports and reinforce safe driving behavior.
Savage, a global provider of supply chain infrastructure and services, installed Netradyne’s Driveri devices in more than 1,000 of its vehicles, including its fleet of approximately 500 Class 8 Mack® trucks. The advanced fleet camera safety platform uses vision-based edge computing and AI (artificial intelligence) to reward positive driving behavior and coach drivers in need of improvement.
The system generates audible in-cab and external alerts to help identify risks, such as distracted driving, drowsy drivers and potential external hazards, thereby allowing drivers to self-correct. Savage says it chose the Netradyne system as a result of its ability to track driver progress, reward positive driver behavior and help reproduce those behaviors with other drivers.
The company accesses video footage remotely in real-time using cellular networks or Wi-Fi, which eliminates the need for a physical card or older footage being overwritten. Savage began installing the cameras in its medium-and heavy-duty trucks in late 2020.
Software tracking drivers operating in the “green zone,” where they drive safely and professionally, generate positive feedback as those drivers are rewarded with recognition and incentives.
As video technology continues to drive the data in targeted, meaningful ways, the greatest benefit is the change in behavior, not just with the drivers but the overall company commitment to safety.
“We’re always focused on the safety of our team members, customers and communities and finding a better way to move and manage materials with less risk across our customers’ supply chains,” said Savage VP of Risk Management Michelle Hollingsed. “We’re taking our risk management to the next level with increased visibility, quick access to video footage, smart recognition technology and real-time, distracted driving notifications for our drivers. The cameras also integrate with our fleet safety management system so we can coach drivers based on what we’re seeing and reward safe driving behaviors.”
In-cab cameras combined with customized coaching not only impacts safety, but also results in more fuel-efficient driving practices. Fuel is second largest expense after labor and every tenth of a mile makes a huge economic impact. The good news is that the safest driving is also the most economical. Coaching drivers to avoid harsh braking, drive in the right gear and adhere to speed limits pays off in fuel savings.
As trucking technology evolves to include advanced, cloud-based software, additional cameras on the truck’s exteriors and even integration with distraction busters such as vibrating seats, the benefits outweigh previous obstacles. Positive coaching and corporate buy-in to dash cams will improve the company’s safety culture.