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Trimble sees video’s growth as fleet tool continuing

Video intelligence helps fleet managers identify poor driving behaviors and also liability in incidents. ( Photo: Trimble )

Fleets are rapidly deploying video solutions, finally convinced of their benefits, and Trimble (NASDAQ: TRMB) is one of the companies benefiting from this. The company’s video intelligence platform, launched in early 2017, is gaining acceptance among customers for the value it is providing in exonerating drivers of wrongdoing and also for improving driver training. It also already meets the needs of 4G communications as providers such as AT&T (NYSE: T) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ) start shutting down their 3G systems.

While it may still be a few years before 3G systems are shut down completely, depending on the provider’s timeline, commercial fleets using technology running on 3G systems could be stuck in the near future unless they upgrade. Jim Angel, vice president of video intelligence solutions for Trimble, said that all of its products are already on 4G, so customers should be set. Any move towards 5G is many years away at this point.

When Trimble launched its video intelligence platform, it was built to take advantage of the speed that 4G could offer, he said. Part of that process was also the decision to dedicate a separate device on trucks to transmit that data securely and quickly through the cloud.

“Even if it’s just data, it still travels faster on the 4G LTE network than on 3G,” he said. “The coverage is important, but the communication [between devices is critical].”

By dedicating a single device to its video platform rather than piggybacking on a modem transmitting data from six other devices, Trimble has ensured its video transmissions are faster and have a higher compression rate.

This is important, Angel said, when it comes to quickly avoiding enforcement actions. He pointed to an example of a driver involved in an incident where he rear-ended a car that had suddenly slowed in the lane next to him because traffic in that lane slowed. The officer was about to hand the driver a citation until he saw the video of the incident. Once the video clarified what happened, the car driver was ticketed instead.

“That police officer report is, probably 90 percent of the time [going to be considered truth],” Angel said. “They report what they see … and most of the time, if I’m a fleet manager, I’m going to rely on what’s in that report.”

It is incidents like these and the avoidance of large settlements when drivers are not at fault that is leading to the adoption and acceptance of video-based systems today.

“The adoption rate is probably five times what it was five years ago,” Angel said, citing the American Trucking Associations report from a few years ago that found 80 percent of incidents involving large trucks are the fault of the car driver. “It’s a no-brainer.”

Contrans, an Ontario, Canada-based fleet with over 3,000 tractors, has begun installing the solution as a way to improve driver visibility around the vehicle, gain access to more analytics and enhance driver coaching.

“By adding Trimble’s video intelligence, we now have the data and insights to help coach drivers and promote safety, which is the key to the success of the Contrans group of companies,” said Darren Levine, vice president of information technology for Contrans. “Video also measurably reduces claims, expedites claim processing and lowers costs in the event of an accident.”

Having the video data is only part of the solution, managing it takes another step. Trimble maintains the data in a customer’s portal for six months, allowing them access to it (those that are authorized, there are several levels of access available) as needed. Video and meta data is stored in the cloud for one year, but after six months the fleet must request Trimble retrieve that data.

Trimble also has proprietary protections in place so if an enforcement officer took control of the device’s SD card, the officer could not see what is on that card without the fleet’s permission. All the devices are built to withstand the rugged nature of commercial operations, something that Angel said not all competitors do.

“Some are just consumer products and they are not working out so well,” he said.

Trimble believes it has the right solution at the right time, and with the coming switchover to 4G, all its video intelligence customers are already technologically prepared, meaning they can think about the money they will save with the system.

“If you don’t put all the tools in place to take advantage of [the [possibilities, you’re losing money],” Angel said.

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Brian Straight

Brian Straight covers general transportation news and leads the editorial team 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 fleetowner.com. 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.

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