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Video cuts one fleet’s insurance costs in half

Using onboard video cameras can not only reduce risky driving behaviors, they can also lead to a significant decrease in insurance premiums.

Big M Transportation has seen unsafe driving and violations decline, insurance costs go down since installation of video system

Several years ago, the idea of installing video cameras into truck cabs was met with harsh criticism from drivers. Many felt it was a fleet’s way to monitoring their activities and an outright invasion of their privacy. Along the way, video services improved, and drivers have, if not fully accepted, at least acknowledged the many benefits cameras can provide.

Savvy fleets have been using rearward facing cameras to improve driver behaviors and reduce risky driving tactics. This, in turn, has resulted in fewer violations such as speeding and reduced crash risk.

Forward-facing cameras, though, have proven to be perhaps the most impactful on fleet operating costs. One large benefit is the reduction in insurance claims and costs. Video can serve as a critical tool to ensure blame for an accident is assigned to the correct party and exonerate fleets of wrongdoing.

When discussing the topic of cameras, insurance costs are often a forgotten topic. Sure, camera providers will tell fleet managers how they can provide a vital piece of evidence that could save a fleet from a multi-million-dollar settlement, but what is the real cost?

Wes Davis, CFO of Big M Transportation, talked recently about the impact his fleet has felt from the installation of onboard video.

“Insurance costs were rising, accident frequency was starting to spike some and there were some accidents that we thought we not our fault,” he told an audience at the recent American Trucking Associations’ Management Conference & Exhibition.

Davis explained that the company decided to explore three areas to try and correct the problem: hair follicle testing for drugs, driver training, and the installation of both forward and rearward cameras.

“In order to correct these problems, we needed to know what the driver was doing in the cab,” he said.

Big M, based in Blue Mountain, MS, is a family-owned business operating over 300 tractors across the continental U.S.

Deploying the cameras properly was critical, Davis said. The company hired a driver to coach the other drivers on using the system.

“When we decided [to hire] the coach, we had to have someone the drivers could trust,” Davis explained. “We hired a guy who was a former police officer and was a current driver.”

This helped the drivers understand the importance of the initiative, and because the coach had an enforcement background, he was able to relay the importance of the systems. The coach also understood driver predicaments because he had driven those same routes. This helped with the buy-in, Davis said.

Choosing a system was the next step. Some systems record continuously, some record critical seconds before and after an event is triggered.

“We had to make the drivers comfortable with it, so we went with a system that was event-based,” Davis said. “If the drivers were doing all the right things, they weren’t showing up on the video.”

Big M did a complete fleet rollout of the system in September 2015 and began collecting data and started coaching almost immediately.

“Ninety percent of the time, [coaching] fixed the issues, whether it was speeding or not putting the phone down, for instance,” Davis said. “If it wasn’t fixed, we brought them in [for a talk].”

Davis added that 91% of the time, when a driver was coached on a poor driving behavior, that behavior was not repeated within the next 90 days.

Following installation of the systems, Big M has seen a 74% decrease in following too closely, an 85% decrease in lane departure incidents and a 72% decrease in traffic violations. The company’s Unsafe Driving BASIC under the CSA program has decreased from 63% before the system to 0% and its Crash Score BASIC has declined from 74% to 2%.

One year after installing the system, Big M Transportation was named the 2016 Truckload Carriers Association Safest Fleet Division IV winner and has seen a dramatic drop in insurance costs as well. Davis said the videos have proven Big M’s drivers were not been at fault in several crashes since installation. As a result of all the improvements, the fleet’s overall insurance costs have decreased 55%.

The reduction in insurance costs has allowed Big M to improve driver performance bonuses. “We’re not spending it on insurance or loses, so we can [reward drivers],” Davis said.

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Brian Straight

Brian Straight leads FreightWaves' Modern Shipper brand as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler. You can reach him at [email protected]