TiVo for truck accidents

Digital video recorders (DVRs) aren't a new form of technology, but they are beginning to make an appearance in trucking. Topeka, KS-based TS2, like many mobile video-surveillance system companies, has long employed DVR technology for a variety of uses especially by police departments, which mount the systems in patrol cars as a way to record events from car chases to traffic stops. Now, the company

Digital video recorders (DVRs) aren't a new form of technology, but they are beginning to make an appearance in trucking. Topeka, KS-based TS2, like many mobile video-surveillance system companies, has long employed DVR technology for a variety of uses — especially by police departments, which mount the systems in patrol cars as a way to record events from car chases to traffic stops.

Now, the company is touting the technology as a way to give truck drivers a video record of accidents and other incidents that might occur during their workday to help reduce the cost of accidents.

“The drivers we've talked to like this system because it takes the responsibility off of them in terms of accidents,” says Jon Hickel, TS2's vp-sales and marketing. “With this technology, they can have visible proof of what occurred during an accident — a video record to back up their story.”

Taking advantage of digital system miniaturization, TS2's system uses four small digital video cameras — two facing forward and two looking rearward — mounted on the truck's side mirrors to provide a video record of what's going on all around the truck, not just in front of it.

And unlike video tape recorders, digital technology also gives the system far greater recording capacity — up to 5 days worth of storage instead of the hours videotape offers — in a small, compact system that takes up little room in the truck cab.

“The real key for owners is in terms of insurance costs,” he said. “The system is set up to automatically save video of any accidents and incidents, using hard braking and ‘g-force’ sensors to trigger that function. In turn, that information can help significantly reduce claims and settlements, especially if it shows the driver isn't at fault.”

A study published by the American Automobile Assn. (AAA) in 2002 found that car drivers were at fault 70% of the time in car-truck accidents, meaning that truckers who are involved in accidents with cars have a far greater chance of being exonerated by what a DVR system records than being punished by it, Hickel says.

“We thought drivers would be far more concerned about having ‘Big Brother’ in the cab than they actually were,” he says. “Most of the drivers we've talked to felt this technology isn't a negative; rather, it can tell the true story for them.”

Though the cost of a DVR system for a truck isn't cheap — just under $5,000 installed — Hickel believes the high cost of insurance for trucking operations plus the excessive costs common in heavy-truck accidents can provide a convincing return-on-investment argument.

“Bob Beemer, the father of our company's president, Todd Beemer, ran a truck driver training school for the last 15 years and has spent the past 41 years in the trucking industry,” Hickel says. “One of his friends, a trucking executive, had to settle accident-related litigation for $400,000, even though their driver wasn't at fault. That story convinced us that DVR technology might have some big benefits for truckers today.”

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