Focus truck video systems on unique fleet needs

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Dashcams have been recording close calls for years. But the latest generation of video-based telematics systems offers deeper insights into truck driver actions – supporting coaching and risk management opportunities alike.

“There isn’t one video solution for everybody, and if there were it would be really expensive,” says Colin Sutherland, Geotab’s executive vice-president – sales and marketing. “Pick the video technology that’s right for the application that you need.”

Colin Sutherland, Geotab’s executive vice-president – sales and marketing
Colin Sutherland, Geotab’s executive vice-president – sales and marketing. (Screen capture)

The data doesn’t need to be limited to video clips that demonstrate what happened during a collision, either.

“Some people want inward-facing video in order to train the driver, looking for those distracted-driving events,” he explained during the online Geotab Extend event.

“Some who are even more advanced are looking for artificial intelligence or even facial recognition to know who is driving the vehicle, and then proactively train the driver for those distracted driving events in real time.”

Video as a sensor

Maybe the cameras don’t need to record the video at all.

Union ships that balk at driver-facing cameras may be open to systems that simply use the lens – and a layer of artificial intelligence – to trigger in-cab warnings if the drivers are using cell phones behind the wheel, says Chris Steineke, Surfsight’s vice-president of U.S. sales, channel and international.

If the fleet serves a government facility that bans outward-facing video recordings, it might make sense to give drivers the option to turn the cameras off.

Drivers accepting video

But many truck drivers may be more open to video recordings than they were in the past.

“In general, think about cameras in your life right now,” Steineke explains. “We’ve got apps like Snapchat, Instagram, Zoom … This is forcing all of us to be much more comfortable with cameras, video in general.”

As valuable as video-based insights might be, Netradyne president – commercial fleets Adam Kahn believes fleets should focus on the positive images as well as the negative events.

“If you’re going to point a finger at your drivers, we suggest a thumbs-up,” he says.

More data, more context

That could require a change in mindsets. Most safety monitoring systems developed in the last two decades focus on finding the worst drivers, Kahn explains. A true picture of “good” driving requires larger data sets.

While legacy video-based systems focus attention on the 10 seconds around hard-braking or another trigger, most drivers are behind the wheel 400-500 minutes a day, he says.

Other data may be needed to offer some context around triggered events. A telematics system might show that one driver had more stop sign infractions than another driver, but a fleet looking at a broad selection of data may find that the driver who had more events faces a significantly higher number of stop signs per month.

Netradyne president – commercial fleets Adam Kahn
Even video data requires some added context, says Netradyne president – commercial fleets Adam Kahn. (Screen capture)

“It’s context that matters. The entire driving experience is important. It avoids finger-pointing,” Kahn says.

Even if a driver triggers four hard-braking events, it might be better to begin complimenting them for the two video clips that were triggered because of pedestrians stepping in the path of the truck. Or before talking about compliance issues, offer a “job-well done” for the 92% of the time they’re compliant.

Automated coaching

Some of the corrective actions may not even directly involve fleet managers.

“Any type of automated coaching certainly accelerates the safety culture and safety performance,” Kahn says.

When the video has a positive story to tell, it may also deserve a broader audience. The Netradyne president stresses the value of offering praise in front of peers, even if it involves presenting a simple piece of SWAG such as a hoodie.

Such positive feedback could be more valuable than ever before.

“The timeline has definitely been reduced on how often employees like to be recognized,” he says. “A lack of employee recognition is the most common reason people – employees, drivers – leave their jobs.”

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John G. Smith is Newcom Media's vice-president - editorial, and the editorial director of its trucking publications -- including Today's Trucking,, and Transport Routier. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.

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  • No way I want a camera on me while driving. I am a driver, not a laboratory animal to be studied and observed.

  • Not sure what message this article was meant to convey. No focus on a particular area or how a company addresses the issues when selling video feedback systems.