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3 benefits of fleet dash cams for businesses
How this emerging technology can help businesses protect their drivers and those on the road
By Gary Flaherty | February 2021
For businesses that manage a commercial fleet, navigating exposures and controlling loss can be a challenging endeavor. Whether their fleet consists of one vehicle or 100, businesses that use automobiles as part of their operations have to regularly contend with risks that threaten the safety of their drivers and the productivity of the fleet itself. Distracted driving, fatigued driving, hard braking and similar issues are not only common, but they can also lead to costly accidents and litigation. That’s where dashcams can help.
This article will highlight the benefits of dashcams and how implementing them in any fleet can help businesses protect their drivers and those on the road.
What are dashcams?
In a basic sense, dashcams are cameras that a business can mount on a vehicle’s dashboard. Dashcams can be interior-facing (i.e., pointed at the driver), exterior-facing (i.e., pointed at the road) or a combination of the two.
Dashcams typically work by connecting to a power source within a vehicle. Sometimes, the dashcam will begin recording footage onto an SD or other memory card the moment a driver starts the vehicle. Other times, dashcams—especially inward-facing ones—only record when a safety event or potential safety event occurs. From an implementation standpoint, there are two main types of dashcams businesses will need to consider:1
- Stand-alone dashcams—Stand-alone dashcams are typically forward-facing, but more advanced systems will have dual lenses that record in-cab activity as well. These dashcams may also be mounted to the side or back of the vehicle for additional coverage. The main function of these cameras is to record video and help determine who is at fault in the event of an accident.
- Telematics-based dashcam systems—Similar to stand-alone dashcams, telematics-based dashcam systems can be used to document an accident. However, these dashcams also allow for robust fleet management. In particular, telematics-based dashcam systems can track unsafe driving events (e.g., speeding and harsh braking, accelerating or cornering), providing an accompanying video that fleet managers can review to analyze the issue. This information can then be used to coach drivers individually on poor driving habits. More advanced telematics-based dashcam systems leverage artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities and can even identify signs of distracted driving or fatigue.
At a high level, dashcam technology acts as a silent witness in the event of an accident or poor driver behavior, as the primary function of a dashcam is to carefully and accurately record on-the-road vehicle and driver activity. Let’s examine these benefits in more detail.
Using dashcams to document accidents2
Following an accident, key stakeholders can review dashcam footage to help determine who was at fault. This may sound minor, but determining the cause of an accident is a difficult and time-consuming process, even for experienced professionals.
For one, law enforcement and accident investigation professionals often rely on witness statements to determine the cause of an accident. These statements may be biased or vague. Additionally, if the accident occurred on a busy road or highway, vehicles involved may be moved to the shoulder. When this occurs, it can be difficult to accurately assess how the accident occurred, particularly if moving a vehicle inadvertently destroyed evidence that could’ve helped determine who was at fault.
As the saying goes, a picture is worth 1,000 words, and dashcams can provide a fully documented, unbiased version of a crash or other incident. Without the footage that dashcams provide, fleets would have to rely on conflicting statements from those involved in an accident. Dashcams can eliminate doubt and even help businesses determine whether there were any contributing factors that need to be addressed on an organizational level. Video footage can also reduce any investigation and legal costs, as claims tend to get resolved faster when clear evidence of fault is available.
Using dashcams for proactive driver management3
Unsafe driving behavior, such as speeding, following too closely, hard braking, driving distracted or driving fatigued, is a major contributor to on-the-road collisions. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the majority of vehicle accidents can be attributed to unsafe driving behaviors4. These accidents can lead to liability concerns, business disruptions or substantial medical costs should an individual be injured in an accident.
As such, to ensure fleet safety and reduce the potential for accidents, dashcams—particularly telematics-based ones—are critical for monitoring and addressing risky driving behaviors before they result in accidents. In traditional telematics setups, devices gather helpful insights regarding driver behavior and vehicle maintenance issues. This data is stored temporarily before it is transmitted back to a central hub where a business can analyze it using software. Telematics devices can gather a host of useful information on a business’s behalf, including the following:5
- The speed of a vehicle
- The location of a vehicle
- The movement patterns of a vehicle
- Instances of aggressive acceleration, harsh braking and erratic cornering
- Distracted driving incidents (e.g., smartphone usage)
- Diagnostics data related to fuel efficiency and vehicle performance
While telematics provide data regarding unsafe driving, telematics-based dashcams work alongside this technology to show what was happening in the cab or on the road when an issue occurred. This gives fleets a 360-degree view of common driver concerns, allowing them to address employee issues on a one-on-one basis.
For instance, if a telematics system flagged an issue related to hard braking, fleet managers could review dashcam footage to determine whether additional coaching is needed to prevent future concerns. Even simple issues related to seat belt usage can be caught through the use of dashcams. This allows fleets to address driver behavior on a holistic level before issues balloon into bigger concerns.
To use a sports analogy, some businesses use this combination of telematics and dashcams as “game footage” to review real-time driving situations. Instead of relying exclusively on motor vehicle records (MVRs) to evaluate whether a driver is safe or not, organizations can use dashcams to proactively review driving behavior and inform their training procedures. This is especially useful, as MVRs may only provide a partial picture of a driver’s overall safety performance (e.g., the driver hasn’t been caught speeding or engaging in unsafe behavior).
Simply put, by working with drivers to examine and address driving behaviors, fleets can proactively improve their safety culture, hone their employee’s driving skills and prevent accidents.
Dashcams as a support and retention tool
Dashcams are a great way for businesses to show that they care for their drivers and take safety seriously. For existing drivers, dashcams demonstrate that the organization is looking out for their well-being. For new drivers, a dashcam is another tool that can be used for continued education and training, which can help improve employee engagement.
What’s more, this approach to fostering employee safety is important for a few reasons beyond protecting drivers from accidents. Notably, according to the American Trucking Associations (ATA), trucking companies across the United States face a collective shortage of over 60,000 drivers due to higher freight demands and an aging driver population. The ATA believes this shortage could grow to 160,000 drivers by 2028 if economic and industry conditions don’t improve6. Due to this historic shortage, many employees are driving longer hours to make up for lost time, which can lead to driver fatigue as well as potential crash and injury concerns.
Furthermore, to fill open positions, companies are broadening the types of candidates they are willing to interview and hire. In many cases, fleets may be forced to bring on drivers who have less experience, minimal training and short driving history. Together, these factors not only increase the risk of collisions, but can also make businesses riskier to insure7. Using dashcams can help quell some of these issues related to inexperienced drivers.
Dashcam implementation considerations
While dashcams are great tools for monitoring and addressing driver concerns, there are considerations to keep in mind.
For one, drivers may feel that the use of dashcams is an invasion of their privacy or a means for their employers to punish them for bad behavior. To alleviate this concern, it’s important for businesses to focus on the benefits of dashcams and their safety implications. For one, dashcams can protect drivers and their families from experiencing all the stress and the fallout that comes with an accident. Some employers even use dashcams to reward good driving behavior and promote a stronger safety culture.
Additionally, it’s important to remember that simply installing a dashcam won’t automatically solve driver issues. Addressing unsafe driving behavior takes ongoing coaching—coaching that’s best informed by information gathered by dashcams and telematics.
Finally, before installing dashcams, businesses will need to create policies and procedures around their usage. This could involve drafting purpose statements around dashcam usage, outlining a driver’s responsibilities in terms of dashcam usage and roadway safety, clarifying upper management’s role in dashcam usage and safety, creating training procedures on how to use dashcams, and communicating how information gathered from dashcams will be used. These policies should guide managers and drivers on topics related to the use of the system. They can be incorporated into existing policies, or businesses could develop a dashcam-specific policy to address specific needs.
Above all, dashcams give businesses the tools they need to make safety a priority within their fleet. Still, it’s critical that, when implementing dashcams, organizations work alongside a qualified insurance professional—a professional who can act as their trusted advisor and help them secure a solution that best meets their needs.
To learn more about dashcams, review the following guidance from Nationwide:
- Which Dashcam is Best for You?
- Benefits of Dashcams
- Dashcam Selection Guide
- Dashcam Policies
- Effective Implementation of Dashcams
About the Expert:
Gary Flaherty, Vice President of Excess & Surplus Commercial Auto
He joined Nationwide in January 2018. Previously, Gary was Assistant Vice President of Fleet Underwriting, Risk Management and Claims at Canal Insurance. He has also led the Claims division for the Commercial Trucking sector at Progressive Insurance and served in claims leadership roles at Progressive branch offices.
Gary holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Pennsylvania State University and a dual Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration (Finance and Economics) from Kutztown University in Pennsylvania.