We are going to tell you a story. This isn’t a real story, but the story itself will help us get a crucial point across about today’s topic. So, let’s get started:
Something wasn’t quite right about the vehicle as it pulled up and into the turn lane next to Johnson’s tractor-trailer. As an owner-operator, Johnson is always on the lookout. His truck is his income, so he’s always got to keep his eyes open.
Either way, as Johnson watched, he had a feeling that the driver of the vehicle next to him was just a tad closer than normal. But as the light turned green, the other vehicle slowly entered the truck’s lane and as Johnson turned, the vehicle continued towards the truck until – almost gently – it brushed up against the left fender of the truck.
Of course, both vehicles immediately pulled over and before Johnson’s feet had even hit the ground, the driver of the passenger vehicle was already out in the street, rubbing her neck, and very loudly complaining that the tractor had run into her.
Before Johnson could even reply, the woman made a quick phone call, just out of earshot, then continued telling onlookers that the truck had run into her and she feared she might have suffered a terrible neck accident. As soon as she finished, she turned to Johnson and asked, “Do you have nothing to say for all this trouble you’ve caused? You injured me! This is going to cost you big time,” she stated dramatically.
Finally, and with all the calm of someone who has seen this a time or two before, Johnson jerked his thumb back towards the cab and pointed to a small device just on the other side of the windshield planted firmly in the center of the dashboard.
“Do you see that?” He asked.
“Yeah, of course I do, what is it?” The driver of the passenger car replied, suddenly sounding unsure.
“Well,” Johnson replied, “that’s a forward-facing camera that recorded everything that just happened.”
Instantly, the passenger car driver stopped rubbing her neck, merely staring wide-eyed at Johnson for a couple of seconds before she turned, ran back to her vehicle and fled the scene.
Johnson merely smiled, knowing that his forward-facing camera had saved him before. Once, as he rolled through a traffic light, Johnson’s truck was side-swiped. While the passenger car driver and several witnesses told arriving officers it was the truck’s fault. Yet, when the in-dash camera video was reviewed, it showed that Johnson had the green and it was – in fact – the passenger car who ran the red light.
Cameras Don’t Lie
While this story may be fictional, we can pretty much guarantee you that it is a story told by more than a few fleets. In fact, it is the primary reason many motor carriers completely revamp their safety programs to include in-dash forward-facing cameras.
The fact is, cameras don’t lie. Many carriers will begin with the basics and eventually upgrade to a fleetwide program. Good, in-cab video systems not only help with truck driver safety measures, but they also keep accidents from harming your bottom line because you had no evidence to prove, well, it wasn’t you.
Still, it’s important that you do your research to ensure you are investing in a system that is both reliable and will stand the test of time and hard use. Some systems don’t have functionalities you need, like cloud-based video storage or superior video quality. But even if you don’t invest in the most expensive unit, one thing you can count on is that cameras tell the truth.
Beyond Simply Finding Fault
Even better, in-dash camera systems have evolved considerably over the years. Today, newer systems do much more than simply determine who is at fault in an accident. Beyond capturing vital footage, they can also record things like vehicle speed, type of motion and other truck driver specific actions that were taken at the time of incident.
While many fleets do their best to ensure a proper safety culture is put in place, everyone knows that once a vehicle leaves company HQ, the age-old rule ‘out of sight, out of mind’ comes into play. Yet with in-cab systems recording everything it isn’t hard for a fleet manager to know exactly what’s going on with the truck at all times.
That’s why in-cab video technology systems have gone from nice-to-haves to must-haves. As a matter of fact, signs point to the possibility that the FMCSA could one day mandate that these devices be installed in cab in all big rigs on the road.
Still, fleets find that installing these systems are about more than just a mandate. Many fleets who install in-cab video systems also see their collision and litigation costs plummet. Not only do in-cab video systems invalidate fraudulent claims, but they also dramatically improve the driving skills of fleet vehicle operators.
Video systems can also add solutions beyond avoiding fraudulent accident claims and helping improve truck driver skills. They can also assist fleets address things like cargo security and workers’ comp claims outside the cab. Fleets can better understand the video being produced and integrate video systems with other technological solutions that help them better understand the data.
Distinguishing Between Raw Data and Video Integration
There’s a big difference between gathering video and then being able to offer clarity on the information it provides. In-cab video solutions should be used to integrate data with vehicle sensors, analyze truck driver behaviors and offer feedback and coaching sessions based on said behaviors.
Let’s face it, it’s impossible to optimize your operational costs and measurably lower claims with just video alone. Video clips of operating events that mean something are quite different than unmanaged video streams that don’t include data from telematics sensors and other, equipment control modules and other systems – such as safety control systems like roll control.
Utilizing the proper video system allows you to do a thorough review of the video clips and fully analyze what went wrong – or what went right in coaching situations. Algorithms built into advanced in-cab video recorders can tune in on millions of miles driven and – in tandem with other systems – help fleets predict risk and offer up actionable solutions. Video systems become an active part of a fleet’s risk management and mitigation program.
This is why it is so important for a fleet to understand what they are purchasing. In-camera systems can run anywhere from $650 – $1,500 per unit. When you multiply that across an entire flee, that’s no small amount of money. If the system is working through an existing telematics provider or delivering information through a cellular or satellite link, you may be also looking at a monthly subscription charge.
But what exactly are you getting for all these extra capabilities? And furthermore, how much can you expect from the future tech built into your in-cab video system?
Advanced In-Cab Video Solutions
There are mainly two types of video systems in development today.
- Works in conjunction with the driver, where the data is used to generate positive driving habits and help create coaching sessions. These systems offer truck driver assist technologies, whether it be by removing blind spots or providing things like lane-changing warnings to the trucker.
- Legacy video systems that trigger only when certain events occur, whether it be sudden breaking or a swerving event. These cameras generally record for about 15 – 30 seconds of video, which is analyzed by the operations center hours later. They are often only one- or two-camera setups.
Yet, as technology continues the long march, even the legacy systems are coming online with far more capabilities built in.
Some are so advanced that they can be seen as superfast computing systems that analyze video using ‘deep learning’. Essentially, these systems record real-time and offer immediate suggestions, rather than recording now for analysis later.
These systems can even go so far as to analyze the types of vehicles driving in front of the truck, their speed, relative motion and more. It can spot traffic lights up to a half-mile ahead and even identify road signs, weather conditions and more. When put together, the computing power at the center of the system offers immediate situational information to assist both truck drivers and those back at fleet HQ to respond to circumstances before they’ve even happened.
This ability to watch and analyze what is happening on the road provides for immediate calculations that can potentially save lives. The fact is, in-cab camera system technology will continue to improve and provide the ability for truck drivers to operate in a safer environment.
Has your fleet invested in technologies such as these? Consider that your competitors may be already researching and outfitting their fleet with in-cab video systems then ask yourself, “Do you want to be left behind as another fleet steals your business because their technology outstrips yours?”
Consider these questions as you shop for big rigs equipped with in-cab video systems, or set about outfitting your fleet yourself.