Dash cams: from Spy-in-the-Cab to Driver Aid
Sales of dash cams (dashboard cameras) throughout Europe have rocketed in the last few years. The latest figures available show that dash cam sales shot up 918% in the UK alone in 2015.
Initially, consumers were the primary buyers of dash cams, and arguably it was for entertainment (sharing footage on YouTube and social media) but then insurance companies got involved and now LCV (Light Commercial Vehicle) fleets are seeing the benefits too.
The phenomenon is due in part to insurance companies agreeing to accept dashboard-mounted video footage as evidence in the event of a claim. “Cash-for-crash” fraud forced insurers to take drastic action. Not only have they allowed dash cam footage, they have incentivised drivers to self-install the evidence capturing equipment by reducing premiums for those who do.
However, enthusiasm for the devices in some European countries has cooled, primarily due to perceived privacy breaches. Luxemburg and Austria, for example, have restricted the use of dash cams to only certain sectors and have collected heavy fines from drivers installing them illegally.Wincanton
UK-based logistics management and transport company Wincanton operates a fleet of 250 LCVs and has a mix of dash cam solutions, single channel, forward-facing, plus 360-degree multi-channel camera systems.
Carl Hanson, Wincanton’s fleet director, takes up the story: “It depends on what you’re looking for. If all you want is something to address insurance claims, then a single, forward-facing camera in each vehicle may be sufficient. But if you want to come at it from a preventative perspective, you’re going to need something that aids drivers.”
In this case, the dash cams have had a positive impact: “We’ve been able to reduce our accident rate by 30%.” Hanson declares.
Much of Wincanton’s LCV fleet operates within the construction industry, in built up areas where hidden obstacles and potential risks are commonplace. So, having a full, 360-degree view around the vehicle helps increase visibility of vulnerable road users and eliminates blind spots. The system enables drivers to be aware of pedestrians, cyclists, straying animals, plus it acts as a driver aid, helping with difficult manoeuvring when no one is around to assist.
In addition to resolving insurance claims quickly, the next stage for fleets is camera integrated telematics.
Says Hanson: “Cameras record events but telematics is about avoidance and prevention. It has to support driver engagement positively.”
He is keen to point out the importance of linking the rollout of dash cams into an overall safety and behavioural change program.
“Get drivers involved and demonstrate the safety benefits for them and not merely the ‘Spy-in-the-cab’ scenario.” He says.
Hanson also highlights another important issue to consider - complacency.
“The thing to watch out for is that drivers get used to the cameras and in some cases quickly forget about them and regress into old habits. Any improvements in their driving could be short-term. Telematics gives you the ability to monitor driver behaviour over the long-term.”
It also provides the data needed to make informed decisions about where, when and what action needs to be taken.
But like all technology, telematics is only a tool. It provides the data but if that data is not acted on, long-lasting driving habits cannot be changed.
When thinking about what system to invest in, Wincanton’s Hanson advises the following:
- Think about the benefits you want to achieve – is it safety or financial gain?
- Consider the risks your fleet faces daily and how likely these things are to happen.
- How many miles does your fleet drive and are those journeys mostly motorways or urban?
- Also, how will you view the footage? Does it have to be instant (streamed) or will recorded suffice?
The positioning of cameras needs to also be thought through carefully. They tend to move, or be knocked by drivers or other in-cab personnel, which could deactivate the recording function.The AA
Under its brand name RoadHawk, TrakM8 offers a multi-camera system that can deliver high-quality streamed video and audio using the cellular network. It also supports GPS and G-Force data.
UK-based vehicle recovery company The AA runs a fleet of 3000 LCVs, mostly Transit and more recently Custom and Courier-types. The company relies on a telematics system supplied by TrakM8 but no dash cams currently, although they are beginning trialled. Why so late to the table?
Stuart Thomas, Head of Fleet and SME Services, The AA, explains: “We were early adopters of telematics technology. Our fleet is complex and we carry a lot of equipment. It is comprised of very specific, specially kitted out vans that have beacons and we need to know when they are on and off. We have recovery trailers in the van and we need to be alerted as to when they are deployed and when a driver is towing, how long he has stopped for, where he is.”
“Our need for telematics data has always been far stronger than the insurance issue for us. However, now that integrated dash cam and telematics systems are available, we are beginning to trial them so this may change.”
Andrew Tillman, fleet strategy director at TrakM8, has been selling dash cams since they first launched and strongly believes that for LCV fleets telematics/dash cam integration is a “no brainer”: “Instead of having to collect an SD card, with this system you can access footage from a specific date and time so if an accident happened at around 2pm on Thursday, you can request that exact footage, say 10 minutes either side of that. It negates having to watch hours of video to reproduce and analyse collision data.”Berendsen
London-based provider of textile maintenance services Berendsen, which operates a 680-strong mixed fleet, claims to have cut carbon emissions by 2,000 tonnes a year by introducing a fleet and driver efficiency programme underpinned by OptiDrive 360 and TomTom Telematics’ integrated telematics and fleet camera solution. The system scores and provides feedback to drivers on a range of performance indicators (fuel consumption, speeding, harsh braking and steering).
Dash cams have their place in LCV fleets but they must be viewed by fleet managers and drivers as an aid, not a spy or source of entertainment.