Dashcams great for settling disputes

Telematics systems have become an integral part of fleet management over the past 10 years but now fleet managers are embracing video for total fleet visibility.

Dashcams provide an easy way to establish blame in the event of a collision. But, when combined with telemetry data, it gives fleet managers a complete picture of what a vehicle is doing and when.

Not only can it record footage in the event of a collision, but also when the telematics system detects an anomaly, such as harsh braking or swerving.

Some systems even provide the driver with a live feed of the blind spots around the vehicle.

Fleet transparency can be enhanced significantly with the use of such systems. The most popular functions are vehicle tracking, accident reporting and managing driver behaviour.

Telematics systems – which started out as fairly rudimentary GPS data loggers – have evolved rapidly and now provide more than 60% of fleets with vital information, according to Teletrac Navman, by monitoring a wide range of para-meters and feeding back data in real-time.

There are countless suppliers of telematics systems, with a wide range of options to suit different fleet sizes and requirements. 

The first dashcams required video footage to be uploaded manually from the device. But, since the introduction of high-speed mobile internet across the country, many suppliers now offer real-time data transfer through a telematics system or connected camera.

The metrics available are enabling fleet operators to make significant savings in fuel and time. Accident rates are also reduced through improved driver behaviour and a reduction in fraudulent claims, which improves insurance costs and vehicle off-road time.

Effectively, fleet managers can now get as much data about a vehicle from their computer screen or mobile device as they could from being in the vehicle at the time.

“Advances in technology include everything from single, forward-facing dashboard cameras to multi-camera configurations, which continuously capture video footage with live streaming capabilities, enabling fleet managers to access data and footage in real-time,” says Teletrac Navman vice president of sales Scott Hutchins. 

“Now, not only are the benefits of adopting a camera system much more apparent – with the ability to improve driver behaviour through training and secure evidence in the event of an incident topping the list – but there are also many more sophisticated options available to meet the specific needs of the operator,” he adds.

Footage of near misses, collisions and harsh driving events is what fleet managers generally extract, enabling them to evaluate driver behaviour and identify training opportunities to promote better practice, which will ultimately result in fewer claims and lower premiums.

Textiles supplier Elis (formerly Berendsen) has a mixed fleet of 750 commercial vehicles and uses a TomTom telematics system with cameras. Group transport compliance and optimisations manager Peter Kelly chose the system for two key reasons: the data was easy to extract from the system and the ability to monitor emails to make sure the company’s transport managers were looking at them. 

“We wanted something that would give us the information and, from a governance perspective, we know that using the information improves the behaviour of the drivers. With better carbon emissions and fuel efficiency, we have cut emissions by 2,000 tonnes,” Kelly says.

If the system senses something out of the ordinary it creates an event rated from zero to five, dependent on the g-force. “Anything from four and above we classify as a near miss because chances are, it was; either the driver acted on the brakes or accelerated very quickly,” Kelly explains. 

“The transport manager automatically gets a video so he can look at what has happened and talk the driver through it. We are anticipating going down to Level 3 within a couple of months and we will keep dragging it down.” 

The TomTom system used by Elis can be used with a navigation device or an in-vehicle tablet.

Kelly decided to opt for the tablet because it gets automatic upgrades from TomTom. He says: “The software coaches the driver and tells him if he’s speeding. When he has had an event over four, it sends alerts. 

“Before we put the telematics in, we trained the drivers and initially, we installed the telematics without the tablets to get a feel for the drivers’ behaviour. Then we gave them tablets and told them that the system was for their own safety and for improvement of the environment by making them slow down and so they were comfortable in their driving environment.

“Once we installed the tablet the difference was unbelievable,” says Kelly.

When he put the proposals for the camera telematics system to the Elis board, he said it would probably make between a 5% and 6% improvement in fuel economy: it is currently around 12%, saving the company £1 million.

TomTom’s ability to interface with other systems was another deciding factor. Elis uses FTA Vision for tachograph infringements and TomTom interfaces with Vision, allowing vehicles to download data automatically to transport managers every day, which helped get buy-in from them. 

Communications with customers are also improved as an ETA is speedily transferred from telematics to transport manager to customer. 

The next stop for Kelly is to add an app to the tablet, so that in the event of an incident, drivers can press a first notification button to inform the insurance company. 

“It will also guide them through what they should do at the scene. One of the biggest issues we have is with spurious claims but now, when we settle a claim, as soon as we look at video, we know who’s in the wrong and who’s in the right.”

Investing in camera technology has enabled Kings Security Systems to more than halve its incident rate year-on-year.

The company has installed dashcams across its fleet of 190 cars and vans, at a cost of £30,000.

“As part of our risk management strategy we deployed dashcams across the fleet. It was a massive investment, but we were able to get a contribution from our insurance company towards the installation,” says Jacob Telemacque, the company’s fleet manager.

In the first year, the fleet’s incident rate was reduced by 30%, leading to a reduction in insurance premiums of £10,000.

“Even if we didn’t get the contribution from our insurer, the system would pay off within a year just in reduced accidents,” Telemacque adds.

Auto Windscreens is predicting a 10% drop in its annual fleet insurance and fuel bill following the installation of VisionTrack cameras to its 285 vans.

The cameras integrate with TomTom Webfleet, the company’s telematics and fleet management system. 

“Being able to see exactly what has happened in any incident helps the team to respond quickly and efficiently to better safeguard our drivers –dispatching recovery trucks, calling the emergency services or hiring replacement vehicles, for example, in a matter of minutes,” says Shaun Atton, fleet manager at Auto Windscreens.

Claims costs are reduced through the rapid and reliable identification of the incident details needed for insurance claims.

“Knowing the vehicle speed and g-force severity at the precise point of impact has also given us indisputable evidence to refute personal injury claims, helping to reduce our loss ratio with our insurer,” explains Atton. “It also gives our insurer the information they need to be able to offer rapid settlement without having to go through protracted and expensive court proceedings.”

A complete picture

The technology will also help improve driver behaviour by highlighting dangerous or inefficient driving, such as harsh braking, sharp cornering or speeding, with associated video evidence for each event, creating a complete picture of where positive intervention, such as driver coaching, is needed.

Managing large amounts of data effectively can be a real challenge for fleet managers. 

Fleet operators will often find their vehicles have multiple devices – historic and current – delivering various pieces of information. This can include manufacturer systems, aftermarket telematics and even connected tyres. Finding the right information at the right time is often a manual process, which is both time consuming and costly.

“The Internet of Things (IoT) has promised all things to all men, but in reality, it is early days and is a portal to place multiple devices,” says Camera Telematics group managing director Mark Stamper. “This is great having the one platform to view data, but the challenge is still around the manual and human intervention required to obtain the right data at the right time for the right person.”

The company’s latest system, Street Angel, does a lot of the false negative filtering automatically, through the remote configurable capability. It means that fleet managers only get notified of the clips they need to see.

“Linked with the user configuration, our cameras deliver real-time data, to the right person at the right time without human intervention,” Stamper adds.

As the technology continues to accelerate, operators can look forward to more sophisticated functionality, for example, inward-facing cameras that look at what the driver is doing, ensuring they’re not falling asleep, using their mobile phone, eating, or being distracted in some other way. 

Hutchins says 5G connectivity has huge potential in this space, promising much faster data download and upload speeds, wider coverage and more stable connections “which means fleet managers can become more efficient through this wireless network technology”.


Driver buy-in

In most cases the investment in vehicle cameras is through a ‘grudge’ purchase, following a claim that a fleet couldn’t defend, although the belief was that it was not liable.

Under these circumstances, the initial capital cost can be a challenge, but the buy-in from the drivers is usually a positive one as they want protection from liability. 

If the business wants to install cameras to help reduce its overall road risk and gain a potential saving, the drivers may push back, thinking that the cameras are only being installed to watch them and catch them out, rather than to protect them and the asset.

One public sector fleet manager says he wanted to install cameras but was unable to due to the threat of union action.

Camera Telematics recommends fleet operators look for a supplier that provides a consultative approach to understand what they are hoping to achieve. 

“In many cases, we offer driver question times, and open forums to address any concerns. We also talk and demonstrate to unions the benefits of the technology to their members, we have always received positive feedback,” says Mark Stamper of Camera Telematics.

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