….or – Everything you need to know if you are thinking about equipping your fleet with cameras.
What do I need? Why do I need it? What to avoid.
Firstly I should point out that this article is aimed at fleet operators running a number of commercial vehicles. If you are looking for advice to buy a camera for your personal car, then this isn’t for you. This guide is aimed at professional vehicle operators who run a fleet of between five and 5,000’s vehicles.
Secondly, I should declare an interest. My business, Roadsense, manages customers within this fleet size and we sell dashcams, accident cameras and all other types of vehicle cameras including the ones that prevent you reversing into buildings or squashing cyclists and pedestrians at road junction or avoiding other types of hazards. However, I’m going to do my best to be impartial, non-geek, and give you some simple facts to help you in your buying decision.
…and thirdly, my real vested interest:
There is so much misinformation and bad advice out there that, as a company, we spend hours each week on the phone being told by the owner of a fleet of vehicles (on which his livelihood depends), exactly where we can stick our cameras because his Uncle Bob bagged a brand new one for under a tenner on eBay, nailed it to his windscreen and it works like a dream. (…and I’m sure it does, right up until the moment it doesn’t; and that will be the exact moment he actually needs it). So, if I can help educate a few people it will save us all a lot of time and frustration and hopefully ensure that if you do buy cameras and are unfortunate enough to have an accident, the footage you need to prove whose liability it was, is going to be there.
Because if it isn’t, that’s when Uncle Bob’s £10 dream camera can become a very expensive nightmare; …….so here goes.
This guide is written as a series about dashcams, accident cameras etc. I wont be covering the actual hardware itself until a later article as there are other, more important issues that should be considered first.
However, as a heads-up for the purposes of these articles, the type of camera system I am going to cover is an in-vehicle camera that, in its most basic form, records continuous video footage of the road ahead and stores it locally, usually on an SD card. When the card is full, it continues recording by overwriting the earliest recordings.
When the camera detects a harsh event, it stores it in a separate location on the SD card that doesn’t get automatically overwritten.
I will cover SD cards in great detail in the second article in this series, as it is so important to the effective use of these devices.
Many cameras incorporate GPS to determine location and speed, they may also integrate with telematics systems to trigger recordings based on vehicle events, such as door openings or speeding. The most sophisticated, hassle-free systems will notify you of events and send some or all of their recordings automatically to a central server where they can be viewed from the comfort of your own desk.
I will cover all these in detail in a later article.
In addition, some cameras now go a step further than accident notification and provide driver behaviour information to help identify poor driving styles and so assist in the prevention of accidents which, in turn, reduces overall fleet costs. Some systems integrate with, or double up as, telematics systems to providing tracking information. These will also be covered in later articles.
Firstly a brief question and answer session:
Q1. “I see accident Cameras, Dash Cams, Cab-cams. What’s the difference?”
The naming of these devices is haphazard and they are called whatever the supplier decides to call them. However, they all refer to a device that has at least one forward facing camera that records video footage of the road ahead. That is the loosest possible definition. The name is irrelevant, the functionality is not, especially in a fleet environment, so I will cover the subject of functionality and what you need in a separate chapter of this guide.
Q2. “I’m under no obligation to fit an accident camera system am I? I’ve run a fleet of vehicles for years without one so why do I suddenly need one now?
Well, strictly speaking you are correct, there is no requirement for you to have one. There are no laws (yet) that require you to fit one, your insurers don’t insist (yet) that you have one and if you have an accident it’s just as likely that the other guy doesn’t have one either so it’s 50:50 as to who’s responsible.
However, the tide is turning. FORS compliance, whilst voluntary and mainly aimed at London fleets, is considered best practice nationwide and being adopted by many operators as a way of demonstrating high standards when competing for contracts and accident cameras / dashcams are being adopted by many of these fleets. Insurers are actively promoting cameras and offering discounts and subsidies to adopters and if you do have an accident, or an unsubstantiated claim against you, isn’t it easier all round to be able to prove the cause quickly and easily and of course, remove the ability of cash for crash fraudsters to hold you to ransom?
Q3. “If I buy a decent camera system it could be a significant investment – why should I invest that kind of money?”
Although disproving liability is the main driving force behind the proliferation of camera systems there are a number of other compelling reasons for buying one. These will depend on the exact functionality and capability of the camera you purchase but here’s a few examples:
a). Using vehicle cameras undoubtedly has an effect on overall driver behaviour. As a result of this and as long as they are continually, actively and conspicuously used in the fleet they will:
Reduce accident frequency.
Reduce the cost the accidents that do still occur
Reduce the cost of third-party claims
Provide first notification of loss (FNOL), which can reduce the cost of the accident and, therefore, keep future premiums down.
Identify poor driving and, therefore allow drivers to be trained to reduce the likelihood of future accidents.
“Yes!”, I hear you say, “that’s just sales spiel” and it is. However, that is because all of the above is proven beyond doubt. They reduce the cost of pay-outs that insurers make, which is why insurers are so keen on these devices and reducing their costs, reduces your premiums.
In addition to the above they have the ability to:
Reduce fuel costs
Reduce maintenance costs
Improve corporate social responsibility
Again, you will be thinking ‘sales spiel’.
I’ll cover in detail how they achieve all this later but for now take it from me; a properly deployed and correctly managed system will achieve these improvements. This is substantiated by the fact that fleet operators that have installed systems, continue to install them in all their new vehicles as their fleets expand, which is proof enough at this stage.
Last, but by no means least, they have a big tick from drivers:
Many cameras incorporate a driver panic button so drivers can protect themselves against road-rage and other incidents.
I can fill a page here with anecdotes of customer’s drivers who would have been disciplined or worse following road incidents but, the fact that they were able to push a button and record the events, enabled them to prove their complete innocence and save, in many cases, their jobs.
d). “Why does he keep saying systems?”
That’s actually my question as a way of getting you a bit more information but it’s important and it becomes more so, the more vehicles that you have in your fleet.
Now you could, of course, take uncle Bob’s advice (see above if you have forgotten who Uncle Bob is already) and buy half a dozen cheap eBay cameras and slap them on your windscreens, – but then what?
Do you think that these things manage themselves, or are you going to rely on your drivers to manage them for you? – Think again.
In our experience the better quality SD-card based cameras are great and work well. However, the SD cards themselves do not continue to work by themselves and they need regular maintenance to ensure that they keep working; otherwise that crucial footage will not be there when you need it. I’ll cover this in more detail later, but you really need to buy from a reputable company that will explain to you the requirements of putting in place a system, a maintenance regime in effect, to ensure that your cameras continue to keep working, to minimise the risk of data corruption and to give you the best chance of your valuable footage always being there when you need it.
e). “What is the single biggest factor in Camera failure?”
Okay, that’s another planted question but it is hugely relevant. The answer is the SD Card and that is the topic I’m going to cover in part two of this article so even if you read no further, if you are considering buying cameras for your fleet make sure you read the next part.
So that’s the end of part one of this guide. Hopefully food for thought for those of you considering taking the plunge.
I realise that I haven’t even mentioned the cameras themselves yet or even explained what an SD Card is (which is probably the most important thing you need to know) so next time I’ll take you through the bear trap that is the SD Card and then I’ll cover types of cameras on the market, their functionality and the additional services their providers offer.
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