It’s becoming increasingly popular for fleet managers to outfit their vehicles with cameras. There are several factors driving this trend, of which the growing risk of litigation is probably the biggest. Other reasons include a need for better driver training (which is also part of a fleet’s efforts to avoid lawsuits), a simple desire to help drivers avoid collisions, and a need to make freight more secure while drivers are away from the vehicle.
Unfortunately, using video to improve safety and efficiency isn’t as simple as slapping a couple cameras on your vehicles and running some cables into the cab. Getting the most out of a camera installation project requires a lot of research, planning, and coordination with your drivers. With all these moving parts, it can be a struggle even to get a new installation project started.
If you’re just beginning to weigh the costs and benefits of cameras, the first thing to do is come up with a clear conception of what the process will entail and what end results you can hope for. Below is a list of questions to help you do just that. Any good vendor will walk you through a similar set of questions, but it can certainly help to have an idea of your answers up front.
1. What Are Your Goals for Installing Cameras?
The first question to answer as you plan for your video installation project is what are your goals? Setting goals at the outset will give you a better idea of what further steps you’ll want to take in your research. If your main goal is to reduce your insurance rates, for instance, you’ll probably want to start with a call to your provider. Your insurance company may give you insight into what kind of cameras in what configurations will be most effective in reducing your fleet’s risk profile.
If you’re installing cameras as part of a driver training program, you may want to explore how other players in your sector are implementing strategies similar to the one you have in mind. Crucially, you’ll also want to get input from your drivers on what measures they believe will be conducive to establishing an effective training regimen they can get behind without feeling like they’re being spied on.
Having clear goals in mind is also the best way to avoid being dazzled by all the whizbang technology you may come across. Machine learning and AI are important aspects of many driver tracking and training programs. But, as cool as these technologies are, if you just want to help your drivers see better into their blind spots, you really don’t need them.
2. If Safety Is Your Primary Concern, What Are the Scenarios Most Commonly Resulting in Collisions?
When you first contact providers of video systems, they’re going to want to know what kind of trucks you’re working with, how many of them there are, and what you’re hoping to achieve by installing cameras. If your goal is to reduce collisions, they’ll probably want to know what the most common types of scenarios are leading to those collisions.
Do your drivers need backup cameras, for instance, or cameras that provide visibility into the vehicle’s blind spots? If you’ve had problems with collisions, what kind of damage resulted? Answering this question will give you insight into what views could have prevented the incident.
3. How Durable Do Your Fleet’s Cameras Need to Be?
Once the type of vehicle and the zones of concern are determined, you’ll have an idea about what kinds of cameras and what configurations you need. Now, you’ll need to answer some more specific questions, like how rugged will you need your cameras to be? Cameras are designed to withstand varying levels of punishment, indicated by their environmental rating.
They’ll also come with different kinds of warranty. If you need video feeds on your delivery trucks and you’re looking to stay within a tight budget, you probably won’t need the extra durable, longer warranty cameras you’d need if you were installing the cameras on heavy construction equipment.
4. Do Your Drivers Need to See the Footage? Or Will You Be Recording It for Future Incident Reviews?
Camera providers will also want to know whether you want video footage to go directly to the cab so the driver can use it, or whether you’ll be recording the footage for later review. If your main goal in installing a video system is to provide more security to your vehicles while they sit parked overnight, for instance, you’ll want some kind of trigger-activated recording device. But if your goal is to help your drivers navigate roads and hubs more safely, then you’ll need a monitor of some sort in the cab for the driver to see.
There’s nothing stopping you from running the footage to a monitor in the cab while at the same time setting up triggers to record incidents. You can also set up triggers to activate different cameras at different times, depending on what areas around the truck your drivers need to see while performing specified tasks. The most basic example is the backup camera that’s activated whenever the vehicle is put in reverse. But multiple triggers for an array of actions are possible.
5. How Many Views Will Your Drivers Need?
Some monitors can display footage from two cameras simultaneously. Some can display footage from four. While it may seem like the more views the better, it can be difficult to see smaller images, especially when views from other cameras are distracting your drivers. So, you don’t want feeds from more cameras than are necessary. (This is a good reason to use triggers to activate one camera or another.)
Monitors come in different styles and sizes as well. A larger monitor will go some way toward making split screens more visible. But cab clutter may also be an issue. In many cases, it’s possible to display camera footage on tablets (see our Convoy Vue app), or even on ELD screens.
To sum up, you’ll need to know what views your drivers or managers will benefit from having access to, and you’ll need to know where you’ll be delivering that access. Once you have these two parts worked out, you’ll be able to get clearer estimates from whichever vendors you choose to consult. Of course, over the course of your research, you may discover tools and applications you haven’t even imagined were possible. Whether these are seductive distractions or avenues to greater safety and productivity will be up to you to decide.
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