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What fleet managers need to know about in-cab video monitoring

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According to the FMCSA’s latest available figures, in 2013 there were 389,000 large truck and bus crashes in the U.S., and 3,806 of these resulted in at least one fatality. The estimated total cost of these crashes: $103 billion. Clearly, there is more that fleets can be doing to ensure the safety of drivers and those with whom they share the roads.

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New advances in driver behavior management solutions can significantly reduce preventable crashes and can also help managers and investigators determine the actual causes of crashes that do occur. In-cab video monitoring is one such advancement that is becoming the rule, not the exception, in commercial vehicles, significantly enhancing a company’s overall safety profile.

What is an in-cab video monitoring system?

In-cab video monitoring systems typically feature both forward- and cab-facing cameras that capture video footage and sound, capturing visual evidence at the time of an event. Most systems capture a short video clip, several seconds in length, that show what was happening outside and inside the cab when a driving event was triggered.

Driving events are configurable and typically include the following driver behaviors: corner handling, speeding, harsh acceleration and deceleration.

While in-cab video tools were initially sold only as standalone systems, in late 2016 it became possible to deploy fleet management solutions with integrated video capabilities—enabling fleet managers to incorporate visual evidence into their overall safety and efficiency improvement programs.

Some of these newer video-based driver behavior solutions capture a loop of up to 72 hours of continuous trip video. This is useful particularly when video evidence is needed even when a driving event is not triggered. Fleet, safety and risk managers can retrieve video segments as needed to gain insight into what happened before and after an event that occurred during this 72-hour period, and view it from within driver reports in their fleet management solution.

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Consider a common scenario in which one of your company’s vehicles slaps mirrors with an oncoming truck. This would not typically trigger a driving behavior event in most systems, but with the 72-hour rolling video, managers can determine if their driver or the oncoming vehicle was at fault.

Issues such as texting or speaking on a mobile phone can also become more readily visible. If, for example, someone called in a concern about this type of activity, managers could refer back to video recordings to see what exactly happened.

MiX Telematics worked with a fleet in the U.K. that was able to use visual evidence from in-cab video monitoring to prove that it was not at fault in 60% of driving events—the previous year, without visual evidence, it was found at fault in 100% of events.

How can the video recordings be used?

Providers of video-based driver behavior solutions offer different approaches to managing video footage. Some provide a managed service where the vendor reviews the videos for customers and determines which videos should be viewed. These videos are then sent to the customers, sometimes with descriptive write-ups detailing possible concerns.

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As mentioned above, other solutions are integrated with fleet management software for evaluating driver behavior and overall fleet efficiency. With a fully integrated solution, video can be automatically appended to driver profiles for easy coaching, and tied to reports depicting specific triggered events. It puts the video information right where the user needs it when reviewing driving behavior and assessing fleet risk.

It is important for fleet managers to craft and publish a video monitoring policy when their fleets adopt in-cab video monitoring—to help drivers understand how video will be captured and used (and help assuage driver fears that the videos are being used to spy on their activities). For instance, one key element in making drivers comfortable with in-cab video monitoring is your assurance that video will only be captured when a driver is driving the vehicle.

How does in-cab video monitoring help fleets?

There are four main benefits:

  • Driver coaching and training: Video is useful not only for accident investigation, but also in curbing unsafe driving behaviors such as speeding, harsh acceleration, hard braking and corner handling. When managers integrate in-cab video monitoring with fleet management, they can include video in driver safety scoring reports. This can help to educate drivers about safe driving behavior and support them in learning how to improve.
  • Crash prevention and reduction: When video is integrated with a fleet management solution, fleets can significantly reduce the frequency and severity of crashes. This is primarily due to improved driver training. Most fleet management solutions have driver-scoring reports to rank drivers based on the number and type of events triggered. Video can be attached to triggered events listed in these reports, making it easy for managers to sit and review driving habits with specific drivers. Coaching drivers and enforcing a company’s driving policies are key to the prevention and reduction of crashes.
  • Post-crash analysis: Video adds an important element to post-crash analysis, giving managers unprecedented insight (and irrefutable evidence) into what occurred in the cab and around the vehicle at the time of an incident. Videos can be viewed alongside a timeline in a fleet management context, adding richer context to incident scenarios for fleet managers, many of whom have shared stories about the importance of this video footage in determining the true cause of an incident. Most fleet management solutions also have driver-scoring reports to rank drivers based on the number and type of events triggered. Video can be attached to triggered events listed in these reports, making it easy for managers to sit and review driving habits with specific drivers. Coaching drivers and enforcing a company’s driving policies are key to the prevention and reduction of crashes.
  • Subrogation of insurance claims: Beyond improving driver training, video helps companies quickly determine if they are at fault or not in the case of a crash. This information is very useful when determining how to best handle claims, settle quickly to reduce settlement cost, or fight the claim knowing the video will exonerate the company from fault. Insurers understand the value of in-cab video solutions, especially those integrated with a fleet management solution. They understand that fleets utilizing these tools reduce their incident rates, and they appreciate the video evidence that supports subrogate claims. This often results in the fleet receiving reduced insurance rates.

Standalone vs. integrated in-cab video monitoring

If you’ve bought into the concept of in-cab video monitoring, you now must decide between a standalone tool and one that’s integrated into a fleet management solution. The latter will:

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  • Save you time and money: Investing in a fully integrated solution means there is no need to purchase separate systems or manage two separate contracts with two separate providers. With only one vendor to deal with and a single system to operate and manage, you’ll also end up saving on other costs, such as staff training and system maintenance.
  • Provide instant access to your fleet’s video data: Instead of relying on a third party to supply visual evidence as required, you’ll have access to this data 24-7. This means you’ll be able to control how and when this visual evidence is accessed and react immediately when an investigation into an event is required. You’ll also be able to access all your video data, and not only the information a third party opts to supply.
  • Allow you to customize what is captured: Higher-end, integrated video solutions can be customized to allow fleet owners or managers to configure certain events that trigger video recording.
  • Reward good driver behavior: While the primary aim of in-cab video monitoring is to help analyze vehicle events such as accidents and the causes thereof, having ownership and constant access to in-cab video evidence also means you can track—and reward—positive behaviors on the road and proper vehicle usage.

While U.S. fleets tend to be extremely safety conscious, there are still many fleets relying on older, less intuitive fleet management technology, the old 1-800 “how’s my driving” bumper stickers, or doing nothing at all to monitor unsafe driving behavior. If yours is one of them, it’s time to explore some new options. In-cab video monitoring has become an important element of fleets’ safety improvement strategies.

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This article was contributed by Pete Allen, executive vice president of MiX Telematics.

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