In-vehicle video monitoring is a great tool to help business owners reduce risk and improve safety, but without driver buy-in, the results can vary.
Dashcams can monitor the inside and outside of a vehicle and often tie into a telematics system to detect hard or sudden maneuvers and collisions.

Dash Cams Can Reduce the Odds of Fleet Accidents

With some drivers spending hours on the road, driving hundreds of thousands of miles a year, it is only a matter of time before they have an incident. Dashcams provide an objective view of the vehicle and the driver during an incident, saving fleets money and time by quickly determining the cause of the incident and who is at fault.

20% of fleet vehicles will be involved in an accident each year.

But dashcams can also be used as a tool to coach drivers out of bad driving habits, preventing many of these dangerous situations from ever occurring.

According to The Large Truck Crash Causation Study conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, as much as 87% of all large truck collisions were linked to risky driving behavior or driver error. These dangerous habits include speeding, taking a corner too fast, hard braking, sudden lane departures, fatigue, and all manner of distractions inside the cab.

87% of all large truck collisions were linked to risky driving behavior or driver error.

These are preventable accidents. With the proper training and expectations, they can be significantly reduced. Dashcams are an excellent way to provide the kind of feedback that can change these habits. However, businesses may find that drivers are not keen on the idea of being monitored on the job.

Drivers Are Worried About Privacy

“Drivers typically don’t like people looking over their shoulder; they feel like dashcams are like a big brother watching them all the time,” said Matt Camden, senior research associate at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. “They feel like the company is going to be nitpicking every single move that they’re making behind the wheel.”

Who can blame them? In our hyper-connected society, privacy is a serious issue on all of our minds. Camden says that the key to easing driver concerns is to emphasize that dashcams are a tool to help improve their driving, rather than punish them for every minor infraction.

“You cannot use dash cams to punish the driver,” said Camden. “Once you do that, then you’re feeding into this fear that drivers have about big brother always watching over your shoulder.”

Instead, he says, fleets should reinforce the concept of improvement. Nobody thinks they are a terrible driver. But showing someone the dangerous things they might be doing without thinking can have a real impact.

Make Coaching About Improvement Not Punishment

In the same way that a professional athlete watches game film to prepare, drivers can also use dashcam footage to learn valuable lessons in developing safer driving practices.

Fleets can also use the footage to praise drivers for doing the right thing. That way, drivers who are following the rules will feel appropriately valued and encouraged to continue.

Fleets should also work with drivers to create a series of performance measurements that they can agree on. Including drivers in the development process shows respect for their professionalism and know-how and gives drivers a stake in a safety program’s success.

It is also important to emphasize that the cameras are there to protect them. Having objective evidence in case of an accident is the best way to defend drivers from litigation, instead of relying on a police report or, worse, one person’s word against another’s.

Management Has to Buy-In for Drivers to Buy-In

But perhaps the best way to ensure driver buy-in is for management to buy-in.

In a 2015 report on the effectiveness of Onboard Safety Monitoring(OSM) technology, researchers from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that “OSM systems are unlikely to result in sustained behavioral improvement when implemented in the absence of a supportive safety culture.”

Creating a Fleet Safety Culture

It is not enough to tell drivers to be safer. Creating a company culture where safety is a value takes effort from all sides. Management buy-in can be as complex as regularly coaching drivers and creating a safety committee or as simple as wearing a seatbelt at all times.

Leading by example lets drivers know just how seriously the company is taking its own safety culture. If management doesn’t want drivers to drive recklessly, they shouldn’t do it either because the employees are watching.

Management buy-in also requires a careful balancing act between job expectations and safety expectations. If drivers feel pressured to meet tight deadlines, that could counteract the expectation that they drive at sober speeds while doing so. It’s important to remember that while safe driving might come at the cost of some productivity, it reduces the potential cost of accidents and violations.

“Safety has to come on equal footing with productivity and making deliveries because if you’re pushing that driver and that driver gets into a crash because they were speeding, your delivery is not going to be made, and you’re going to have huge financial consequences,” said Camden.

Dashcams are only a piece of the puzzle for improving safety. For fleets it takes buy-in from drivers and management to create the kind of change required to reduce accidents and liability.

Matt Camden is the senior research associate for the Center for Truck and Bus Safety, Behavioral Analysis and Applications Group at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute in Blacksburg, Virginia.