Insurance & Risk ManagementNews

Deploying cameras in the battle to reduce risk

In-cab cameras can help fleets reduce risky driving behaviors, but also help fight fraudulent claims. ( Photo: Shutterstock )

A few years ago, cameras in trucks were viewed negatively by nearly everyone. That has started changing as more providers perfected the systems and word started getting out on how a camera could save a fleet from a million-dollar lawsuit, not to mention reducing risky driving behaviors.

For insurers, cameras are just another piece of an overall safety profile for a fleet, but an important one nonetheless. Andrew Ladebauche, CEO of Reliance Partners, says that more fleets are looking at cameras than ever before.

“Over the past year, year-and-a-half, the majority of our clients have looked at them,” he tells FreightWaves. While not all have adopted them, the interest is spiking. “From an insurance company perspective, we have seen them adopted more and more.”

There are two general types of cameras – those facing the roadway and those facing the driver. The cameras that face drivers still face a number of obstacles, including driver concern about privacy, but the systems that record activity in and around the truck have proven their worth.

“Some fleets have offset costs through lower premiums,” Ladebauche says. “And when at fault [in an accident], carriers settle suits quicker at lower costs than a trial.”

Ladebauche says most fleets adopting cameras are opting for forward-facing models, and it’s not just the larger fleets anymore.

“We are seeing a lot more companies, including fleets under 10 trucks, looking to put cameras into their trucks,” he notes.

Lytx is one of the companies that provide cameras. The company says that North Carolina-based Cargo Transporters outfitted its entire fleet of 525-trucks with the Lytx DriveCam safety program and saw an 83% decrease in near collisions, a 76% reduction in traffic violations and a 33% drop in unbelted drivers.

Cargo Transporters used the cameras to help exonerate drivers who were innocent of alleged incidents and shifted the focus of the company from a reactionary safety program to a proactive program. The cameras also reduced legal costs, fraudulent claims and improved driver behavior such as following too closely which has reduced rear-end collisions. It only took the dismissal of two wrongful claims to pay for the entire fleet’s outfitting.

“With the DriveCam footage, we get a first-hand view to see what the drivers are seeing. We see how traffic is interacting with our vehicle, and how our drivers are interacting with other traffic,” said Jerry Sigmon Jr., vice president of operations for Cargo Transporters.

Dry bulk carrier Bulkmatic runs its fleet with the SmartDrive video-based safety system. Since installing the system in 2014, the fleet has reduced DOT-recordable accidents 50% and has an accident rate 40% below the national average. According to SmartDrive, the system has exonerated the fleet in over 90 incidents since 2014.

“The SmartDrive program has allowed us to proactively identify risky driving behavior, coach our drivers and eliminate associated risk. The results are indisputable; you need only look at the significant reduction in our accident rate,” Terry McAdams, vice president of safety at Bulkmatic Transport, explains.

The interest in cameras among fleets is not news to Ladebauche, who says they are popular among fleets that choose deductible insurance coverages.

“Most of the time, when carriers take on a deductible program, they are looking at cameras,” he says. “[Without cameras] when they have accidents, whether it’s their fault or not, that cost was coming out of their deductible,” so many view the cost of the systems as a cost they would have paid anyway.

“If they can mitigate their out-of-pocket claims experience, the camera can pay for itself,” Ladebauche adds, noting that more carriers are looking at deductible programs – and larger deductibles – due to rising insurance costs.

He notes that Reliance often gets questions on whether adding cameras come with an insurance discount. While Reliance doesn’t offer a specific discount, some providers do offer discounts, he says, adding that in many cases the deployment of cameras can reduce a fleet’s overall risk profile and that can be reflected in lower premiums.

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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 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.