While dashboard cameras have been available to fleet operators for decades, it’s only been in the past five to 10 years that advances have made the units’ costs low enough and their screen resolution high enough to be widely available.
Dash cams offer many benefits to fleets, the most obvious of which is the ability to provide evidence in the event of a disputed insurance claim, such as a crash-for-cash. Many insurers offer discounts for fleets that have them fitted.
However, there are other advantages. Drivers who know their behaviour is being monitored adopt better behaviour on the road, which reduces accidents, fuel consumption and wear and tear on the engine, transmission and brakes.
Dash cams are not a legal requirement, but industry associations, such as the Road Haulage Association and the Fleet Transport Association, encourage their members to fit them.
Devices should intrude no more than 40mm into the swept area of the windscreen wiper blades and must not be fitted directly above the steering wheel. The law states that video-playing devices must not be visible to the driver when driving, so they must be able to turn themselves off or drivers may have to cover them.
Prices, quality and functions vary, but the budget models often fall short of operators’ requirements in terms of quality and functionality. Furthermore, a number of these cameras are not recognised by insurers, so it is worth checking that your supplier is accredited.
“The key considerations for fleet operators when choosing an in-vehicle CCTV system are ‘will it be reliable and will it provide court admissible footage in the event of an insurance claim?’,” says Paul Singh, CEO of SmartWitness.
Cameras should provide instant email notification as soon as an incident occurs, be tamper proof and state the speed of the vehicle.
“In one recent case, a customer of ours simply pointed to the SmartWitness camera he had installed when the car in front had deliberately caused a shunt. The other driver just drove off immediately knowing that he wasn’t going to get an insurance pay out,” Singh says.
There is an increasing shift towards premium devices with a wider range of services. Some dash cams now offer driver aid systems, such as collision detection, lane departure warning, front collision alert and driver fatigue alert.
More expensive models are linked to telematics via the sat-nav, which documents the speed and location of vehicles. Inward-facing cameras can also be used to monitor a driver’s movements and concentration.
Most dash cams record their videos to SD cards, but some devices instead send footage of suspected incidents (detected via a G-sensor, or acceleration sensor, in the camera) to the fleet manager via a 3G mobile data connection.
“There is a range of benefits associated with a 3G system, as opposed to SD storage,” says Raj Singh, managing director of Crystal Ball.
“The camera is always running, but only sends clips back to the fleet manager’s portal if the G-sensor is activated. This could be because of a crash, or even incidents that the fleet manager wouldn’t know about, like harsh acceleration and heavy braking.
“We had a driver recently who repeatedly drove on the rumble strips of the motorway, which highlighted concerns of driver fatigue and due care and attention.”
Cameras are also used to ensure compliance with duty-of-care and health and safety legislation. Some suppliers offer vehicle checklists, which helps to cut down on paperwork.
Martin Hazelwood, transport manager at Logistics Planning Services, believes 3G cameras offer better safety and insurance benefits than more traditional models.
“We are committed to using the latest technology to provide the highest levels of customer service, operational performance and duty of care,” says Hazelwood. “We recognise the potential of the 3G vehicle camera, when compared with other devices in the marketplace, and we expect it to have a significant positive impact on road safety and insurance costs.”