Safety, legal protection key benefits of dash cams, users say

Over the past few years, truck dash cams have become a popular addition to fleets.

By fully recording a view of the road and inside the cab, dash cams provide benefits to drivers, including assistance in court cases and with insurance companies in the event of an accident, as well as overall safety enhancement.

“Dash cams are a key component of a fleet’s safety efforts,” said Eleanor Horowitz, safety product marketing manager of Samsara, a dash cam headquartered in San Francisco. “Nothing matters more than making sure every driver makes it home safely at the end of the day.”

Below are four areas where carriers and drivers alike see benefit from dash cams.

Gathering video evidence

Court cases about collisions involving Class 8 vehicles are all too common. One of the main reasons why fleets incorporate dash cams, according to Horowitz, is to provide video evidence in case of a crash or other incident, helping to expedite investigations and exonerate not-at-fault drivers. That is becoming more important as costly verdicts continue to rise.

In October 2017, the use of a dash cam helped Moore Food Distributors, based in St. Louis, Missorri, save over $250,000 in vehicle damage after an incident involving one of its trucks that was traveling on a highway. A car hit the truck, causing the truck to tip, pass through the guardrail and eventually fall down an embankment.

The dash cam automatically uploaded footage of the accident. Within five minutes of the incident, Moore Food was able to download and send video files to law enforcement and insurance companies, demonstrating their driver was not at fault.

“The cameras were a godsend,” said Tom Townsend, Moore Food’s fleet manager. “It took the pressure off of our driver because it showed that he wasn’t responsible for the accident. It was good for the driver, and it was good for the company.”

Monitoring driver behavior

Fleet managers are able to monitor and evaluate a driver’s habits by watching dash cam footage. That can benefit not only that particular driver at the time, but those in training and coaching. Dash cams allow visibility into what the driver is seeing while behind the wheel, making it possible to pinpoint errors as well as correct actions. That feedback enhances the training and coaching process with authentic situations.

Further, a manager is able to remotely monitor drivers who are in training rather than having to provide a ride-along coach. This maximizes efficiency.

With the help of Samsara, Simco Logistics of Moorestown, New Jersey, has streamlined coaching for over 150 drivers by prioritizing review of the most high-risk events and proactively coaching drivers in group sessions. According to Horowitz, Simco Logistics has seen a 75% reduction in driving incidents down from 20 harsh events in their daily Safety Inbox to less than five per day.

Reducing insurance costs and fraud

Scams in which drivers purposely cause accidents then blame the other party in order to bill insurance companies are a common type of fraud.

Supposed “victims” may also fake injuries, further increasing fleets’ insurance costs if the scammers succeed. Lack of evidence one way or the other in these incidents makes them harder to detect, but dash cams can often furnish that evidence.

According to Horowitz, the reduction in insurance costs and litigation fees is one of the main reasons why fleets decide to incorporate dash cams. After installing Samsara’s dual-facing dash cams, for instance, Simco Logistics reported a 15% savings in insurance premiums.

Increasing driver retention

With high driver turnover rates, keeping drivers engaged can be a major challenge for fleet managers. One way to increase driver engagement is by installing dash cams, according to Samsara.

While improving overall safety, dash cams also boost driver morale. Often, fleets incorporate rewards or benefits programs for positive driver behavior. Footage from dash cams can be used to see which drivers have been putting forth extra effort and to highlight good driving practices.

Moreover, the initiative involved in installing dash cams helps drivers feel seen, heard and most importantly, safe. This attracts drivers, supports engagement and increases retention. 

Robert Howard, COO of Dohrn Transfer of Rock Island, Illinois, told FreightWaves that the use of dash cams has cultivated a clear and more holistic view of safety across the company’s fleet. “Since installing Samsara’s dash cameras, we have more actionable data, we’re able to give feedback to our drivers faster and more accurately, and because of that, we can make more informed decisions for our business.”

Asked what he recommends for other fleets, Howard highlighted the importance of recognizing positive driver behavior in addition to offering training to address negative incidents.

“We have developed a gamified, safety-focused employee engagement program with our drivers,” Howard said. “They can see how their safety scores are tracking against their peers’, which motivates them to become even safer. Awards and recognition based off of these scores also incentivize safe driving habits.”