Dashboard cameras are going to become an everyday feature in new cars as manufacturers help fleets enhance their arsenal of best practise tools and procedures governing driver safety.
Leading fleet decision makers are already seeing the benefits of such technology where they have had ‘dash cams’ fitted to cars, in some cases also pointing to the rear of vehicles. But they are already throwing up significant challenges as managers wrestle with data handling and at least one unforeseen consequence.
At the latest Fleet 200 meeting, in Leeds, one fleet manager said: “Manufacturers will begin to offer in-car cameras as standard as more and more fleets decide to adopt the technology through third parties and, even members of the public begin to turn to them as a tool to back up their insurance claims.”
He uses SmartWitness cameras with G-sensors, recording the impact force of an accident.
Another said that a trial had shown rear facing cameras were important too to support claims by drivers hit in the rear while stationary at traffic lights, for example.
But he added data storage was already becoming a problem: “When we aware of an accident at the time of it happening, we don’t have a problem, but we are having to keep camera footage for three years as we are getting claims going back that far from claimants and solicitors looking for an easy win. Storage, on SD cards or hard drives is becoming an issue. We can’t afford to loosen our three year policy.”
Memory cards in cameras can record up to 32 gigabytes of data.
Each fleet manager taking part in the discussion about in-vehicle technology said managing driver behaviour was a significant challenge.
Tools such as cameras were part of the solution, but telematics – particularly black box data recorders – were also increasingly important.
They have been fitted most commonly to LCVs and HGVs were drivers are more willing to accept their need in a clearly defined ‘work vehicle’.
Car drivers were resistant, however, due to data use concerns, but Fleet 200 members dismissed them because while useful in recording the speed of vehicles, potential faults, incident data and maintenance scheduling, out-of-working hours location information was of little value.
“I’ve no interest in knowing what golf club my drivers go to or where their girlfriend lives and if they think I’ve time to pour through the records, they’re misguided,” he said.
One fleet manager had installed a privacy button in 70% of his van fleet, allowing drivers to turn off tracking information out of work hours.
Another said that he had introduced telematics into a sample of his car fleet and it led to more drivers moving into the company’s cash for car scheme.
Technology plus driver education was a combination fleet managers were employing consistently.
Measures mentioned by the discussion group were:
> publicising the names of drivers internally who been dismissed having been involved in traffic accidents or have been found to break driving laws
> make the employee safety improvement message – such as crash detection - central to any role out of telematics systems in drivers’ cars to overcome fears of a ‘Big Brother’ mentality
> withdrawing the cash allowance for drivers who refused to sign up to a safety improvement scheme
> categorise drivers who have driven 10%, up to 25% and more than 25% over the speed limit, then target the latter. Also look at each drivers’ offences per 100 miles driven
> The senior company director speaks to the worst 10 drivers telling them their behaviour is unacceptable. The 10 best are congratulated
> A Dutch company awards points to its best drivers which count towards improved specification on their next car
> a high profile prosecution of a company director in event of one of their drivers found to be at fault in a serious accident.
But one fleet manager mentioned an extraordinary consequence of his staff’s improved driving. “My drivers are sticking to the speed limit and it’s led to abuse from other motorists who think they are going too slow or getting in the way,” he said. “In-car cameras will be welcomed by my drivers – and by my insurance company.”
> SmartWitness camera in action on the M6 from the Fleet News’ archive: http://www.fleetnews.co.uk/news/2014/7/8/lane-hopping-collision-caught-on-smart-witness-camera/52915/