“There was a truck driver who was involved in a horrific accident.” Drew Schimelpfenig’s voice lowered to a grave tone as he recalled the story. “It was a situation in which the driver was unable to drive the truck away from the accident and he was second guessing if he had done everything he could have to avoid a DOT-reportable accident with injuries.
“He was in a hotel room, beating himself up, when his phone rang,” Schimelpfenig continued. “It was his fleet’s safety manager, who had reviewed both the forward- and driver-facing video recorded by the in-cab video system.
“The safety manager said, ‘Look, you did everything right. We can tell from the video that you had good awareness, and that you reacted immediately; your instincts and training kicked in. There was nothing we could see in the forward- or driver-facing video that indicated you did anything wrong. It was just an unavoidable situation.’”
When we discuss spec’ing equipment, we focus on the ROI nuts and bolts. In the case of safety-related systems, we can forget that an accident is an emotionally traumatic experience—one that is derived from the dedicated work ethic that fleet managers and drivers alike pour into their jobs. As product manager with Omnitracs Safety Center of Excellence, Drew Schimelpfenig has many sobering stories. Like any story, there are two sides to the one above. While the fleet was able to provide its driver with peace of mind during a devastating experience, the upside for the fleet was that the video also exonerated the driver of any wrongdoing.
And it’s Schimelpfenig’s experience that when there’s an accident involving a truck using an in-cab video system, the video has been able to exonerate the driver more times often than not.
“In a collision situation in which the truck driver is in complete control of the vehicle and operating the vehicle safely, having the ability to request a video, a specific date and time has allowed our customers to prove that their driver didn’t cause a lane change accident and that, in fact, it was the other vehicle that encroached into the truck’s lane,” Schimelpfenig said confidently. “Further, the driver-facing video becomes as much as an advocate as the forward facing video. If there is an accident, you’re able to prove that your driver wasn’t on his phone.”
As a fleet manager, if you approach your drivers with the prospect of putting in-cab video cameras into your trucks, you’re often met with pushback (to put it lightly). Schimelpfenig’s point is that it should be the opposite sentiment: You aren’t putting cameras in the trucks because your drivers are doing something wrong—you’re putting cameras in the trucks because they’re doing everything right.
The goal of any fleet spec’ing safety-related equipment such as lane departure warning and/or collision mitigation systems is to reduce accidents. Yet as a fleet manager, your visibility into an event that triggers a lane departure mitigation warning or engages the collision mitigation system is extremely limited. An in-cab video system gives you the experience of riding shotgun with your drivers when a safety event is triggered.
“Behavior you can’t see can become the risk you can’t manage,” Schimelpfenig said. “If you’ve invested in these systems, you might not have visibility into why or how often these systems are engaging; you lose the ability to improve your drivers’ safe-driving behavior beyond that initial investment. By incorporating video, now you can see those systems in action, you see the behavior that led up to the system engaging and you know if the driver is over-driving or abusing the technology.”
When it comes to driver training, a video can take a lot of the emotion out of the situation.
“It’s hard for two people to watch a video and see something different,” Schimelpfenig said. “As a fleet manager, when you’re coaching a driver, you can sit next to him or her, watch the video triggered by the safety event and, together, determine what behavior might need to change in order to improve that driver’s ability and reduce risk of an accident.”
On the flip side, a video can also bring peace of mind to you as the fleet manager. Take a hard-braking event, for example. With video, you can see that your driver had no choice but to rapidly decelerate even though he was following at a safe and proper following distance and driving at a safe, legal speed. The video could likely show that your driver had proper lane usage and that he put your truck in the best possible situation to avoid an incident. The hard-braking event was simply unavoidable as the situation unfolded on the road in front of him.
We’re all out there on the road every day. We see the distracted driving that professional truck drivers have to deal with on a daily, if not minute-to-minute, basis.
In-cab video can allow you to see it from your drivers’ point of view and potentially be the witness your fleet needs to prove that all your hard work and driver training paid off in the event of an accident—an accident that your driver and truck didn’t cause.
This is just part of the story uncovered in a recent Fleet Equipment live interview with Drew Schimelpfenig of the Omnitracs Safety Center of Excellence. You can watch the full presentation here after registering.