April 2021

Fleet safety through a fish-eye lens: Cameras help truckers find lower-cost insurance

Have video technologies eliminated the public’s role in monitoring a truck driver’s on-road behavior? The Magic 8 Ball says, “highly likely,” but as long as fleets post the number on the truck there are sure to be plenty of “incident reporting” the old-fashioned way.

Driver monitoring has come a long way since 1-800-HowsMyDriving and the technology is getting more sophisticated every day. But although the integration of digital video-based real-time monitoring of drivers while they are on the HOS clock is controversial, it’s a trend that’s showing no signs of slowing down.

Monitoring safety reduces costs

According to Heavy Duty Trucking’s Trucking Info editors Jim Beach and Deborah Lockridge, Monitoring driver behavior can improve safety and reduce costs. They assert fleets are starting to take advantage of near-real-time reporting on driver performance and that affordable technologies are available to help fleets to keep track of where their trucks are at all times, but also report how the trucks are being operated. Regardless of mandates the trend is driving more fleets to install cameras and integrate the data and images into something useful and valuable to the organization – you know, like safety training.


Mandates to come?

Meanwhile, Tom Quimby, senior editor over at Commercial Carrier Journal is reporting that the one-two punch of cameras and driver coaching is solidifying both safety and insurance for fleets. In fact, truck cameras have become so important to fleet safety, safety expert and CEO of Carrier Risk Solutions Sam Tucker told Quimby that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration might soon be mandating their use. Mandate or not, Quimby reports more fleets are leaning on event recorders especially when over-the-moon damage awards are dragging carriers into the headlines and many into bankruptcy.

Offering his opinion during Truckload Carriers Association’s webinar on improving carriers standing with insurers, April 15, Tucker said this about truck-mounted cameras: “It's the next big wave. Even a lot of owner-operators who may not have the ability to have full bore systems in their trucks are going to Amazon and grabbing up a $35 dash cam because they understand the power behind it. I think it's really, from a grassroots perspective, building up.”

Also contributing to the webinar was Stewart Transport Risk Management Director Amanda Gallegos of Stewart Transport, a freight hauler based in Phoenix, Arizona. According to Heavy Duty Trucking this fleet is no stranger to safety. The 25-year-old carrier was recognized as the safest fleet by the Arizona Trucking Association in 2015.

“Adding our camera system was pretty much the key to getting a really true, unbiased narrative on what's going on,” she said. “We have been able to advocate for our drivers that were falsely accused. But on the flip side we've also been able to manage claims where we knew we were at liability just by kind of concentrating on that unbiased narrative.”

Driver’s buy-in critical

Getting buy-in for safety goals from drivers proved to be a vital part of the process for Stewart Transport, Gallegos said. “The fastest and easiest thing that we have found to reduce our risk is to really educate our drivers specifically during roadside inspections and what the results of the roadside inspections are to our compliance, safety, accountability (CSA) scores and their own pre-employment screening program (PSP) scores.”


Camara captures UFF colliding with trucker

A driver for Ward Transport had a strange encounter with an Unidentified Flying Fish or UFF, driving near Charlotte North Carolina Friday, April 16. Apparently originally intended as a bird’s dinner, the UFF went airborne after being dropped and struck the truck’s windshield. Fortunately, noted the Charlotte Observer, and FoxChannel 13 new reports, the UFF was not large enough to cause anything more than emotional damage. The posted video shows the driver safely pulling off the road and that is basically the end of the story.

However, imagine if the video showed something a bit different. Say the fish was a bit larger, startled the driver to the point where control was compromised and the trucker, upon recovering his senses, had to brake hard to avoid a collision. Next thing you know that shiny Volvo is in the ditch with a truckload of trailers completely on the wrong end of the truck.

No need for imagination or skepticism

Now imagine this all happened on a clear day in moderate traffic, and evidence of any fish is completely absent from the scene – plus no video. Say the driver has a couple spots on his record and even though he swears “A fish hit me” no one believes him – must be high, etc. The cause becomes driver error and not road hazard. Insurance premiums go up. He’s fired and the fleet has lost a good man.

But that is certainly the worst case and something avoided completely when there is video evidence to back up often murky and ambiguous circumstances related to collisions and other road or air hazards. Like a damn flying fish out of nowhere.

Camaras do have their place in the cab and this fish tale proves that regardless of outcome, the devices can be a good thing. In this case, Ward posted the video on its social channel, it went viral and the company’s brand received valuable national publicity. Unfortunately, the fish is still missing, unidentified and presumed dead.

Bob Tales