SmartDrive
Smart Drive Camera Slide

More video, more data creating more powerful analytics for fleets

Jan. 16, 2020
The trucking industry is ‘not even close to scratching the surface of what data analytics will be’ as more fleets are realizing the power of the video — and other intelligence — coming off of trucks.

This is the second part of a five-part feature on how cameras and video are changing fleets and drivers as a new decade dawns. Read Part 1 and Part 3.

One of the reasons Michigan-based Atlas Trucking & Logistics equipped its trucks with SmartDrive cameras was for the analytics, according to Jeff Bronson, senior director of transportation at Atlas.

“The number of triggered events when we first started were through the roof,” he told Fleet Owner. “If you look at the graph, we’re now down to not a lot of events on a daily basis. We’ve been able to retrain our drivers, so to speak, and make them aware of their learned bad habits and let them know about the good habits.”

Cell phone usage is down and seat belt usage is up, according to Marc Scibilia, safety and maintenance director at Atlas.

Each triggered event from the video system is an opportunity to train drivers. 

“Following too close is a big problem even with seasoned drivers,” Scibilia said. “This allows us to align our other training efforts with some of the other systems that we use to really drill down and train a specific driver on his bad habit and try to train it out of him. That’s where this comes into play.”

Ronnie Holland, director of safety for TCW, said drivers use the Bendix Wingman Fusion system to coach themselves.

“Ninety-nine percent of our coaching is self-coaching because these are professionals,” he said of his regional drivers who operate in the Southeast. “They want to get home to their families every day. It gives them another opportunity to look at that situation and see how they could have responded differently. And it’s accepted well that way.”

Holland said that when there is a reportable event, the recorded video is flagged by the system and e-mailed to the driver so he or she can self-coach. 

“Instead of waiting to try to get with them to review it, the driver can review it at their convenience,” he explained. “It is sent to them with a video of what happened and maybe a couple of points about (what triggered) the system and a comment. We’re not trying to Monday morning quarterback them.”

Drivers then have the option to respond to what caused the event and explain what was going on before the video started recording the incident. Sometimes they simply agree that they can do a better job if the same situation occurs again. 

The acceptance of camera technology is also growing as the next generation of drivers — and fleets — take over the roadways. 

“If you have a fleet that is built on new drivers or you’re a brand new fleet, where you can say here’s how we think about technology, there are no issues,” said SmartDrive CEO Steve Mitgang. “It’s the rules of how you’re going to actually work with us. And if you want to be here, here’s what you get.”

Not only is a generational shift leading to more acceptance, but millennials are expecting — and relying on — the latest technology to drive. 

“There’s more accountability because millennials know more about what the technology can and can’t do,” said millennial Jeremy Stickling, the chief administrative officer for Nussbaum Transportation. “They are going to be more used to cameras for sure. Maybe they’re desensitized to it a little bit and that’ll help.”

At Nussbaum, drivers receive higher pay than some other fleets “for the performance that we’re looking for. These are the tools we use to know if you deserve those extra dollars — and it works,” Stickling said.

He added video has helped the company learn more about Nussbaum’s drivers, and as a result, bonuses have never been higher.

“We now know if somebody is showing very conservative safe habits, we figure they are about three-and-a-half times less likely to get into a significant crash,” Stickling said. “We’ve seen that consistently in our data the last couple of years, and that enables us to pay them more. And it came back to us.”

“Nuclear” verdicts by juries after accidents over the last decade have been driving up fleet insurance premiums. But Nussbaum “came through with flat renewals in this environment,” Stickling said. 

He added: “Good driving habits equal better safety, which equals saved dollars.”

SmartDrive’s Mitgang pointed out the industry is “not even close to scratching the power of what data analytics will be.” 

All the data coming off the vehicle, including videos, will bring real value for fleets,” said Bendix’s Thomas.

Stickling believes the data available to fleets is becoming more granular, thanks to the technology. 

“The brains of these camera systems are becoming more powerful,” he said. “They can process and slice and dice the information that’s running through the computer. So we can start getting even more intelligent with the feedback we give our drivers.”

For example, Stickling said he can drill down to see how his drivers are accelerating in certain situations. 

“I can now give them feedback on how they do with the throttle … and I can show them that if they work on the throttle, they can save a little bit more fuel — or focus on the safety mind-set that plays into how heavy your foot is as well,” he explained. 

The video and data that come with it can lead to the next level of fleet management, as it will help managers and drivers agree with what’s expected and what to act on when it comes to the data, he said. 

When fleets first started putting cameras on their trucks, a lot of drivers pushed back before seeing the potential benefits of video evidence and coaching opportunities. 

These cameras and data have led to safer driving at TCW, Holland said. 

“I don’t think anybody is challenging the system at all.  I think most people appreciate the system … it’s come a long way. But I do want to say that the ‘Big Brother’ mentality is still out there. That perception is still out there,” he said. “We only have outward-facing cameras. We do not have the inward-facing cameras on the driver. I think it helps us in selling the product and the idea that it doesn’t invade any privacy whatsoever. We’re trying to get you home;  we’re not trying to see what’s going on every minute in there.”

When Atlas first wanted to put cameras on its trucks, many drivers threatened to leave, Bronson said. “But Marc and I decided we’re putting them on company trucks, period. If you don’t like it, leave. And we pay extremely well and our benefits are tops in the industry, so we knew even if our company guys left, they would be back.”

Atlas then focused on its owner-operators, who were more open to outward-facing cameras but didn’t want a camera focused inside the cab. Then one of its veteran drivers was in that horrific crash in Illinois

Bronson said he would show the video to other drivers and “explain to them that if you don’t have that inward-facing camera, when you go into court and half of the jurors are millennials, and the prosecutor says, ‘Why don’t you have inward-facing cameras?’ And we say, ‘Because they are an additional $12 per month’ to the millennials who think money grows on trees, we’re toast. They may come after us as a company on that, but they can still go after you individually in a civil suit—and you’ll likely not be able to drive a truck again.”

Bronson gave his drivers a deadline for camera implementation. When the date came, there were still nine drivers who declined the technology. When Atlas told them they couldn’t drive anymore, they quickly changed their minds. 

“Their fear is that we’re watching them while they are sleeping and other downtimes,” Scibilia noted. “I will tell them straight up—put a rag over it or put your hat over it when you’re not moving to get peace of mind. But we know that as soon as they hit that emergency brake, that inward-facing camera goes off. If you don’t trust me, block it. But when you’re moving, that camera better not be blocked. I have better things to do with my off time than to sit and watch you sleep.”

For those who believe using cameras may be scaring away good drivers, Bronson responds: “What’s a really good driver? Someone who makes you a lot of money? Not having cameras could cost you a lot of money.” 

Nussbaum was an early adopter of inward-facing cameras on its fleet. To address any concerns, the carrier was careful to talk it through with potential drivers during the recruiting and hiring process. 

Fast forward half a decade. “Now more and more candidates are just treating it like a non-issue,” Stickling said. “It’s something they’re used to. They’ve heard of it, and they’ve been subject to it before. It didn’t ruin their careers.”

Even if still not popular with many drivers, it is going mainstream because of the exoneration stories. 

“There’s the group that says: ‘This actually validates my driving style — it’s not perfect at it, but it gives me some feedback. I love it. And if I’m in an accident, this will tell the story.’ And there’s a lot of peace of mind with that,” Stickling said.

This is the second part of a five-part feature on how cameras and video are changing fleets and drivers as a new decade dawns. Read Part 1 and Part 3.
About the Author

Josh Fisher | Editor-in-Chief

Editor-in-Chief Josh Fisher has been with FleetOwner since 2017, covering everything from modern fleet management to operational efficiency, artificial intelligence, autonomous trucking, regulations, and emerging transportation technology. He is based in Maryland. 

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