TORONTO, Ont. – If you or one of the drivers in your fleet has ever been involved in a collision, you know the hassle and burden that comes along with it. Insurance rates and tension all start to rise and somehow just because of the size of a commercial vehicle and lack of proof, you’re deemed at fault.
At the PeopleNet Canada Transportation Symposium held earlier this week in downtown Toronto, PeopleNet’s Jim Angel spoke to attendees about the benefits of equipping vehicles with its Video Intelligence system. The system – that combines forward-facing cameras and telematics – is still in beta testing, but so far, the company said it is seeing the different ways it is helping fleets save money and improve their businesses, especially when it comes to exonerating drivers who are involved in road accidents.
Avoid being at fault in the event of a collision
The biggest focus of Angel’s presentation was how the system will be helpful in the event of collision where a commercial vehicle is involved. He started the presentation off by showing a non-ending scroll of settlements from an Atlanta, Georgia-based law firm that deals exclusively with commercial vehicle accidents where a passenger vehicle is involved.
In just 32 collisions this firm has helped settle, almost $70 million has been awarded to the passenger driver – with an average of $2 million a claim. And the kicker? There were just eight fatalities in the 32 collisions.
It doesn’t help that the mainstream media puts a lot of blame on commercial drivers because they are still considered unprofessional, said Angel. So without proper evidence, transport companies have to cough up the money in most cases of a collision where fault can’t truly be determined.
This goes against what research shows, said Angel who brought up the white paper released by the American Trucking Associations back in February 2013 that concluded that close to 75% of fatal collisions involving a passenger car and a commercial vehicle were found to actually be the fault of the car driver. The report studied more than 8,300 fatal car crashes and had input from several large research firms as well as agencies like the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
“In the paper they outlined that without video evidence, these odds are unlikely to be in favour towards the trucking companies because data sometimes just doesn’t do it. Eye witnesses just don’t do it,” Angel said. “Without the proper tools to fight it, a lot of those battles aren’t being won. And I think if we all knew we could get 75% odds in Vegas, I think we all know where we would be today. The odds are greatly in the carriers’ favour. The drivers are doing what you’ve hired them to do and that is be the professional on the road. They’re better (drivers) than you and I. They’re better (drivers) than the other car drivers on the road.”
With Video Intelligence or forward-facing cameras, trucking companies can now prove their driver was not at fault and save money in the long run when it comes to accidents, Angel claimed.
Angel brought up a carrier using PeopleNet’s beta system today. After comparing a year without the system and a year with the system, the company openly told stakeholders that it reduced their collision costs by close to 40% – all without reducing the number of accidents it was in. That’s because in court it was able to pull video footage and prove most of the time, its drivers were not at fault.
Use footage as a training tool
Another benefit of the Video Intelligence system is the ability to use it as another one of your driver training tools, Angel explained.
The system works by sending video footage to safety managers when a truck accelerates or decelerates by a certain amount (carriers set the threshold) because this is how most accidents occur.
For example, if a car cuts in front of a commercial vehicle and the commercial driver slams on the brakes (going from 100 km/h to 50 km/h in seconds) and hits the car that cut him/her off, the system would then capture 10 seconds before the deceleration (or acceleration) and 10 seconds after the deceleration (or acceleration) to fully show what happened and why an accident occurred.
More often than not, though, video will capture a near accident, or a truck speeding up to make the yellow light. In this case, Angel said it is a good opportunity to review the footage with drivers and talk to them about what they could have improved upon in those specific instances.
“The footage can be used for positive reinforcement, too,” said Angel. “Keep the footage where your driver did everything right and show them at your next safety meeting, or show them when you’re training a new hire.”
By the end of 2016, PeopleNet said it hopes its Video Intelligence solution will have a full 360 degree view around the truck and trailer. So far it has the forward-facing cameras that give a 150 degree view. By then end of 2015, it wants to have cameras on the left and right side of the truck/trailer and then by the end of 2016 it wants to launch its rear cameras behind the trailer.
What’s missing, said Angel, is the camera inside the cab focused on the driver.
“I think we can all agree that I don’t think anybody wants a video in their office,” he said. “Especially in a driver-short environment, rear facing cameras are not good for recruiting. You want to show the driver that you are there for their protection and this is why we do forward-facing.”
Angel added that in many cases he’s heard of drivers turning down jobs because companies said they use cameras in the cab.
“Forward-facing cameras are accepted by drivers, because they know they are the better driver,” he said. “Some of them even go out and buy their own GoPros and put them on the dash. What (drivers) don’t like is the rear-facing camera invading their space.”
Angel said that Video Intelligence will be accepted by your fleet because it shows drivers you are on their side and don’t want to invade their privacy.
Improve communication and relationship with drivers
Video Intelligence takes out the hassle of the he said/she said according to PeopleNet. Now, in the event of a collision, or near collision, safety managers and fleet owners can get the full and true story of what happened on the road.
Angel said before, without forward-facing cameras, drivers tell you their side of the story, and you pat them on the back for not getting into a collision, but this isn’t always the truth. Sometimes drivers are distracted, or they accelerate too fast when on an on-ramp.
“In my experience, (drivers) don’t tell you what actually happened not because they’re trying to lie to you but because they are the professional and they feel they did everything they did for a reason,” said Angel. “But now video is the real story.”
Angel said video will help to keep communication between drivers and managers open and based on facts.
Video Intelligence also has a feature for managers to rank their drivers and identifies the most at-risk drivers in the fleet based on a variety of metrics and CSA scores. Angel showed attendees footage from one of its fleets in beta testing. This particular driver was one of the fleet’s most at-risk drivers. In the video, he was driving along a pretty isolated highway in the right-hand lane, when the car in the lane beside him drifted onto the shoulder and jerked the steering wheel too hard and hit the truck.
“The first thing the car driver said was ‘why did you run me off the road?,’” Angel said. “So the truck driver called his safety manager and he was very upset and told him what happened.”
Angel said the safety manager was ready to fire the driver based on this one incident since he already had two strikes against him, but after reviewing the video, saw his at-risk driver actually did nothing wrong.
The truck driver told the car driver that his truck was equipped with cameras and all of sudden, the car driver’s story began to change to the wind blew him into the truck, Angel said.
“The cool thing about this story is that the safety manager, a PeopleNet customer, was thrilled that the company was going to get its $5,400 back to pay for damages on the truck, but he was even more thrilled about the driver keeping his job. They kept a driver in the seat. The video showed the driver did everything he was supposed to do. He had perfect alignment; he was going the right speed. So at the end of the day, he was more excited to have the driver keep his job, than the $5000 that the company was getting to pay for the damages.”
And in an industry where we can’t afford to lose a single driver, this is good news for everyone, he said.