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How video telematics can provide truck operation insight beyond what you see

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As more Stay at Home orders are issued by states and the quarantine continues, the trucking industry keeps rolling forward. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), which executes the Secretary of Homeland Security’s responsibilities, stated that employees supporting or enabling transportation functions, including truck drivers, bus drivers, dispatchers, maintenance and repair technicians, warehouse workers, truck stop and rest area workers, and workers that maintain and inspect infrastructure are Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers.

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As a fleet manager, the ability to manage your equipment remotely is all the more important as deliveries of necessary goods are in high demand during the Coronavirus pandemic. Operational data can paint a picture of what’s happening to your equipment and drivers out on the road, but pair it with a video telematics solution and you can actually see what’s happening on the road.

“Video telematics allows fleet managers to actually be able to look out of the windshield of that truck and see the exact same thing that the truck driver is seeing,” said Jim Angel, vice president of video intelligence solutions for Trimble. “One of the video features that we’ve seen fleet customers leveraging in particular is our on-demand feature: the ability to go back and get information and that maybe did not come to light until a couple of days later. It provides a window into anything that may have happened.

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“Fleets are using it for detention qualification. They pull an image from the video at a certain time and are able to say, ‘No, my driver was on that yard. You can see where he entered the gate through this at such-and-such a time.’ Another example is that, although winter months are almost over, the country still saw snow in the Northeast this past week, and fleet managers are clicking for an on-demand video to see what their drivers are facing when they’re operating in a severe weather alert.

“Hats off to our customers and carriers for being creative and utilizing the system in different ways to provide additional benefit.”

And the benefits of video telematics are just starting to be tapped by fleets that have implemented the technology. I caught up with Angel on a conference call, both of us working from home during the Coronavirus quarantine, to talk about the expansive visibility video telematics can provide into truck operations and find out how fleets could leverage it to continue rolling efficiently.

Fleet Equipment (FE): That on-demand feature: How does it work? Is it a video live stream? Something the fleet manager triggers or is the video capture triggered by an event?

Angel: We have two methods: One is through our Health Tool, which gives fleet managers the ability to hit a ‘test camera’ button and get a live snapshot. Now that is not a video, but our on-demand feature allows them to go back and get information for anything that previously happened.

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So it’s a 10:03 a.m. Central time right now, and I could go back and request 10:01 a.m. CT to see what’s happened the last two minutes. Anything that has been recorded to the DVR becomes available in near-real time. It’s important to note that although the DVR is capable of it, we have had a high regard and high respect for driver privacy, retention and recruiting challenges that our carriers have shared with us. So we’ve avoided the livestream feature until the market comes back and tells us that that’s becoming more important.

FE: Speaking of that, what kind of management processes do you recommend to your clients to be able to put it to use but still help the drivers not feel like they’re being invaded upon?

Angel: Every company has different needs. Fleets have to establish programs and protocols within their organizations, and it has to be clearly communicated to all stakeholders, from the driver to the fleet manager. Once those are clearly understood, we’ve seen very few cases where the drivers are so upset about in-cab cameras that they’re willing to quit.

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Quite honestly, I think with any situation, whether you choose to use that in-cab information or not, you still want to clearly communicate the goals of the program and what you’re trying to establish.

FE: That goes for both inward-facing and outward-facing in-cab cameras, right?

Angel: Right. Particularly for forward-facing cameras, drivers are typically all in on this because they know that the video can protect them in the event of an accident. Our statistics prove that our drivers are the better drivers on the road; I think they know that as well.

FE: For sure. So how does that typically play out in an accident situation? What role is the video playing?

Angel: The majority of the time in an incident or accident investigation, you’re going to get 85% to 90% of the information that you need from the outward-facing camera. We take that video and integrate the telematics data. So we’re going to tell you things like when the driver applied the brake and how fast the truck was going because we validate that with GPS speed. We can go even deeper and tell you what percentage they were on the fuel pedal, when they engaged the clutch, if they were in cruise, as well as all of the information that is available from advanced driver safety systems like collision mitigation systems or anti-roll stability systems. That data gives you a window into what’s happening within the cab without the inward-facing camera.

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We have a customer who used inward-facing cameras for a long time who said that the driver-facing video never exonerated his driver. In other words, it’s what happened outside of the cab that has absolutely everything to do with the accident or incident–that is what, generally, determines fault. Again, with our deep telematics integration, we can tell you what the driver was doing at the time of the incident without the video looking into the cab.

To share some statistics: We have a little more than 60,000 subscribers today and only 4% utilize driver-facing cameras. In the past five years, we’ve seen a definite trend in terms of respecting a driver’s privacy, which helps with recruiting and retaining drivers. When I’m talking with customers I always ask them how they would feel if their manager came to them and said that they were going to install a camera in the corner of their office so that they can observe what they’re doing all day.

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FE: To your point, being able to show operational behavior without actually showing it with video is super interesting. With all of that information, how much training or guidance does a fleet manager need to be able to leverage those telematics data points while seeing the video?

Angel: Fleet managers or driver managers should be looking to the video telematics information to answer the questions: Is my driver within the legal speeding limit? How often is he or she using the cruise control function? What’s the RPM? What’s the accelerator percentage that his or her foot is on the fuel pedal accelerating? What was the forward speed of the vehicle ahead of them that cause this mitigation event to occur? What is the distance in feet from the back of that vehicle? All of that information is rapidly coming through the ECM second by second and providing that detail that lights up our gauges underneath the video. So you visually see and understand the distance.

With that information, it becomes incredibly easy to coach your drivers by showing them. It’s the visual part of the data that brings it into context. To help filter out the important instances, we have configurable filters that would allow fleet managers to only see events that happen at higher speeds. So if you’re not concerned about bumper-to-bumper traffic within a city, you don’t have to look at all those videos.

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We can also prioritize events by severity so that fleet managers are acting upon the most significant events in a timely manner because we’re generating those automatically in near-real time and bringing those back wirelessly to the portal for the management folks at the carrier to be able to utilize that information. The managers can flag those, save them for the driver and be able to walk the driver through the data to promote better driving habits by visually showing that there’s room for improvement.

FE: Definitely unique solutions for Trimble users, but how does that translate to all fleets?

Angel: The way we built our system is that we can be agnostic to other telematics devices. If other providers are willing and want to integrate and make that data available, we can consume that data and make it usable with our video because it’s an open platform and system.

The way it works is we would integrate with a provider and say, ‘Send us a trigger, tell us a type of an event, give us the data to go with it and we’ll go get the video that matches up with that.’ I think there’s going to be a lot of opportunity for expansion into other sizes and types of fleets, in addition to being able to continue to listen to what our market’s asking us for.

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FE: At the end of the day, it’s all about providing solutions.

Angel: Of course. And I want to give a shout out to everyone out there dealing with what’s happening today, and especially the drivers that are bringing the very needed supplies–the guys and gals that are on the road dealing with this on a daily basis. I couldn’t be prouder to have 23 years on the carrier side of the industry under my belt. It makes me appreciate what they do every day. I’m still very, very proud and happy to be part of this industry. I hope this generates a sincere appreciation from the people who may take trucks and drivers for granted. When you walk into the grocery store and see empty shelves, that’s what we’d have to deal with in our daily life if we didn’t have great transportation companies and great drivers.

Trimble is staying available and supports our customers through this unprecedented time we’re all going through.

More from Trimble’s executive team.

More on in-cab cameras.

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