How this emerging technology can help businesses protect their drivers and those on the road
February 2021 | General Industries
BY GARY FLAHERTY
Over 50% of Samsara fleet dash cam customers have used footage to exonerate drivers
Dash cams have saved them $5,000 to $25,000 on average — and some customers have even saved over $100,000 a year
15% of Samsara dash cam customers have also reported reduced insurance premiums after successfully implementing and managing their telematics program
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 vehicles as part of their operations have to 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 can also lead to costly accidents and litigation.
That’s where dashboard cameras, or fleet dash cams, can help. This article will highlight the benefits of dash cams and how implementing them in any fleet can assist businesses in protecting their drivers and those on the road. In fact, Nationwide recently announced a new partnership with Samsara to help commercial trucking customers protect themselves and take advantage of fleet dash cam solutions and software. Through the partnership, Nationwide’s Excess & Surplus customers with 11 or more commercial trucks will be able to leverage Samsara’s artificial intelligence (AI)-based video telematics solutions and fleet management software at a reduced cost.
Dash cams are essentially cameras that a business can mount on a vehicle’s dashboard. Dash cams can be interior-facing (i.e., pointed at the driver), exterior-facing (i.e., pointed at the road) or a combination of the two.
Dash cams typically work by connecting to a power source within a vehicle. Sometimes the dash cam will begin recording footage onto a secure digital (SD) or other memory card the moment a driver starts the vehicle. Other times, dash cams — especially inward-facing ones — record only when a safety event or potential safety event occurs.
From an implementation standpoint, there are two main types of fleet dash cam solutions that businesses will need to consider1:
At a high level, dash cam technology acts as a silent witness in the event of an accident or poor driver behavior, as the primary function of a dash cam is to carefully and accurately record on-the-road vehicle and driver activity. Let’s examine these benefits in more detail.
Following an accident, key stakeholders can review dash cam 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.
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 have helped determine who was at fault.
As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, and dash cams can provide a fully documented, unbiased version of a crash or other incident. Without the footage that dash cams provide, fleets would have to rely on conflicting statements from those involved in an accident. Dash cams 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.
According to Samsara, more than half of its dash cam customers have used footage to exonerate drivers. That’s saved them $5,000 to $25,000 on average, and some customers have even saved over $100,000 a year. About 15% of Samsara dash cam customers have also reported reduced insurance premiums after successfully implementing and managing their telematics program.
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, most vehicle accidents can be attributed to unsafe driving behaviors.4 These accidents can lead to liability concerns, business disruptions or substantial medical costs should an individual be injured in an accident.
To ensure fleet safety and reduce the potential for accidents, fleet management dash cams — particularly the telematics-based variety — 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 lots of useful information on a business’s behalf, including the following5:
While telematics provides data regarding unsafe driving, telematics-based dash cams 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 an individual basis.
For instance, if a telematics system flagged an issue related to hard braking, fleet managers could review dash cam footage to determine whether additional coaching is needed to prevent future concerns. Even simple issues related to seat belt usage can be caught using fleet management dash cams. 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 dash cams 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 dash cams to proactively review driving behavior and inform their training procedures. This is especially useful because MVRs may provide only 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, fleet managers can proactively improve their safety culture, hone their employee’s driving skills and prevent accidents.
For existing drivers, dash cams demonstrate that the organization is looking out for their well-being. For new drivers, a fleet dash cam is another tool that can be used for continued education and training, which can help improve employee engagement.
This approach to fostering employee safety is important for a few reasons beyond protecting drivers from accidents. 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 improve.6 Due to this historic shortage, many employees are driving longer hours to make up for lost time, which can lead to driver fatigue and also potential crash and injury concerns.
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 a short driving history. Together, these factors not only increase the risk of collisions but can also make businesses riskier to insure.7 Using dash cams can help quell some of these issues related to inexperienced drivers.
While dash cams are powerful tools for monitoring and addressing driver concerns, there are considerations to keep in mind.
First, drivers may feel that the use of fleet dash cam solutions 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 dash cams and their safety implications. For example, dash cams can protect drivers and their families from experiencing all the stress and the fallout that comes with an accident. Some employers even use dash cams to reward good driving behavior and promote a stronger safety culture.
Additionally, it’s important to remember that simply installing a dash cam won’t automatically solve driver issues. Addressing unsafe driving behavior takes ongoing coaching, which is best informed by information gathered through dash cams and telematics.
Finally, before installing dash cams, businesses will need to create policies and procedures around their usage. This could involve drafting purpose statements regarding dash cam usage, outlining a driver’s responsibilities, clarifying upper management’s role in dash cam usage and safety, creating training procedures on how to use dash cams, and communicating how information gathered from dash cams 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 dash cam-specific policy to address individual needs.
Above all, dash cams give businesses the tools they need to make safety a priority within their fleet. Still, it’s critical that organizations work alongside a qualified insurance professional who can act as their trusted agent and help them secure a solution that best meets their needs.
Learn more about Nationwide’s new partnership with Samsara and Excess & Surplus solutions. If you're an agent interested in growing your commercial book of business, please go to nationwide.com/agents.
To learn more about dash cams, review the following Loss Control Resources from Nationwide: