Vehicle cameras are nothing new. The first use of a “dash cam” dates back to the late 1930s and was designed to help police officers catch traffic violators. Today, more businesses across various industries are also looking to adapt in-cab cameras to help them and their drivers improve safety, help resolve auto claims quickly, and protect themselves against false insurance claims.
AXA XL has experienced an increase in insurance customer inquiries about use of in-cab/mounted cameras in commercial fleet vehicles. There are many different options when considering both vehicle cameras and telematic data systems. Each company has its own risk tolerance and challenges, so what works for one company may not work for another. Before deciding whether in-cab cameras are an appropriate solution, companies need to understand how this technology and data will be used within their existing risk management and safety programs.
There’s growing evidence that making a financial investment in cameras can yield future returns in reducing litigation costs and payouts. For some, the primary concern (aside from the upfront investment costs) is the possibility that a dash camera will capture content that may be detrimental in the defense of a claim. Although a valid concern, the benefits of use far outweigh any potential drawbacks. While video may show a driver at fault, this information can give companies incentive to settle a claim promptly. Much of the success in the use of dash/mounted cameras starts with how the company’s management team leverages the technology.
Aiding in claims management
The presence of cameras in your fleet vehicles can protect against fraud by providing evidence that your driver was not at fault for an accident. A few scenarios can help illustrate this value:
- Another driver cuts off your fleet truck and applies the brakes to cause an intentional collision. He then files an insurance claim against your company. The camera footage can reveal the actions of the other driver to greatly assist with determining liability and provide the evidence needed to successfully defend against a fraudulent claim.
- An intersection accident occurs where the other driver makes a turn on red in front of your driver, who has a green light. The camera can show the traffic light status and refute any arguments of who had the right-of-way.
- One of your vehicles rear-ends another vehicle. Though your driver may be liable, the video can show your driver did everything possible to stop. The video may also show the other driver walking around after the accident with no signs of injury in contradiction to a claim for debilitating injuries.
In each of these examples, a dash camera can assist in defending the insured customer. Bottom line, trucking companies can be the targets of inflated and outright false claims. Dash cameras help to defend and/or mitigate these exposures. They can also help provide information early in the discovery process that dictates whether a claim should be vigorously defended or whether an early settlement should be pursued to save time and expense.
Capturing the moment
There are just too many situations out there today where truck drivers are blamed for minor and major traffic incidents when they are not at fault. When the accident involves a larger commercial vehicle versus a smaller passenger vehicle, it’s often assumed the truck driver made a mistake. A camera system provides an unbiased narrative on what happened prior to, during, and immediately following an accident. Witness statements on accidents can often be emotional and take time to process, but event recorders make the evidence quickly accessible. Often drivers and other parties, including police officers, bring an emotional narrative to the situation, but camera footage removes this variable. The stress of an accident can negatively impact memory recall. Without video, collisions can result in a “word vs. word” situation – one that usually turns into a long, drawn-out legal battle requiring expert testimony and opinions with resulting costs in the tens of thousands of dollars.
The video produced by a dash camera can be a “double-edged sword” and may also show if a truck driver was negligent. There is a silver lining for a motor carrier in such cases as it can help direct claim handling priorities. If an accident is the truck driver’s fault, their insurance company can work expeditiously to settle the claim. With video, it can quickly be determined who is in the right and who is in the wrong. AXA XL would rather know up front if our client’s driver is at fault for an accident so we can be proactive and get ahead of the claim.
A video can also show others involved in the accident and how they interacted and moved about the accident scene and after it happened. Although the existence of dash camera footage cannot always help a commercial transporter with respect to liability, it can nevertheless protect it from having to pay excessive damages that have the potential to ruin any business.
Having drivers review video evidence prior to giving a formal statement on an accident can prove helpful as well. It may not be necessary to take a driver’s statement immediately after the crash, particularly if emotions are running high. Telematics and the camera system can tell us a lot about what happened and essentially speak for the driver about the circumstances and outcome.
One final imperative when managing video and telematics data related to an accident/incident is the importance of saving this data. Regardless of whether or not your driver is at fault, companies should save all data, including video, tied to the accident/incident just as they would with paper documentation. Deleting data related to an accident/incident could be considered “spoliation of evidence”, which can be held against the driver and your company.
Reaping training benefits
Video cameras can vastly enhance safety training efforts, providing unique training opportunities. Video footage can be used to show drivers the dangers posed by not wearing seat belts, following too closely, being distracted, and many other scenarios. The footage is a powerful training tool because it shows real life experiences and can be used for discussions on how to avoid similar instances from occurring in the future. It shows just how quickly bad things can happen and how fast a situation can deteriorate. Video footage can be used to educate drivers about appropriate preventive measures.
Since no company can put a safety manager in the cab of every truck, an in-cab, road/driver-facing camera can be an alternate solution. Several camera/telematic providers offer the service of monitoring in-cab video and watching for unsafe driver actions such as talking on a telephone, being distracted, and even nodding off. Even the best drivers may have minor habits that can lead to risky situations.
Notifications of higher risk scenarios and behaviors from camera/telematics providers can be sent to designated safety managers, who can then personally address them with the driver to prevent future occurrences. Some services will even send an audible notification to the driver. These tools help identify – and improve – unsafe driving patterns that in many cases can go undetected until something bad happens. These examples can also be shared with other drivers during common training.
Video evidence helps coach drivers because it brings a balanced approach. Managers can initially point out positive aspects of driver performance before addressing concerns. Real-time feedback about real situations is the key..
Before implementing camera technology, support from all levels of management is essential for a variety of reasons. There will be up-front costs to purchase. There may be driver push back, and video may show unsafe driving which will need to be addressed with re-training and/or disciplinary actions. Modifications to existing employee management and training programs may be necessary.
Before businesses go out and buy cameras for their fleets, they need to identify their goals. Are they looking for a tool to assist with managing claims? Or are they looking for more support to assist with preventing future accidents by identifying unsafe practices? Answering these basic questions will assist with determining specific camera needs (forward facing, in-cab facing, side views, and reverse facing).
Next, businesses will need to identify a service provider and understand what equipment and deliverables they will provide. Due diligence is essential to identify proven technologies and providers with strong customer support. To help, the AXA XL Ecosystem has been created to provide curated risk management solutions via a network of technology partners. These firms can help our customers explore goals, options, costs, pilot programs, and implementation steps.
It is also important to consider who within the company will receive alerts when an unsafe driving act is detected or when an accident occurs. Information/alerts from a service provider can be overwhelming, especially early in the process, and it cannot be ignored. This data could be identifying unsafe acts that can lead to a future accident. It can also be used against the company in legal proceedings if demonstrated known/recorded unsafe actions were being ignored.
Getting driver buy-in
Implementing a camera program requires driver acceptance. To receive that support, each company must consider its own culture and the most appropriate steps to follow. There is no golden rule for gaining initial driver acceptance. As in-cab cameras are becoming more popular, companies may be surprised to find less push-back from drivers than expected. If they do have concerns, however, some driver concerns can be overcome by explaining that cameras can be a very helpful tool in defending them after an accident. In-cab cameras can also assist drivers with identifying unsafe actions they may not even be aware of while driving. Explain the basic legal and financial benefits to both the driver and the company as their employer.
Running a pilot test with cameras will allow multiple drivers the opportunity to see the set-up and get a better understanding of what is generated. Allowing them to ask questions and make suggestions can also go a long way in establishing acceptance. Often, it also helps to discuss cameras with drivers one-on-one or in smaller groups to better answer their questions and give them a better comfort level.
Some of the more frequent complaints heard from drivers is that they don’t want ‘big brother’ watching while they are driving. They also are concerned about their privacy when in their sleeper cab. Depending on the system chosen, video is typically only sent when harsh driving conditions are detected, such as when an unsafe act is detected, or when an accident occurs. Also, most camera systems go into a ‘sleep’ mode when the vehicle is idling or off.
Drivers need to understand that camera systems and associated training programs can help improve their individual safety records; improve overall company performance; and could result in lower company expenses. It’s a win-win situation with great potential to improve the profitability of the fleet.
Some final thoughts
Truck camera technology has become so important to fleet safety that some trucking experts believe the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) may eventually mandate camera use. Recently the FMCSA granted a carrier an exemption to allow them to install a rear camera monitoring system on their trucks in lieu of having two rear-view mirrors. Though these are not dash/in-cab mirrors, it does show that the FMCSA is more carefully evaluating camera programs.
Mandate or not, more commercial fleets are leaning on event recorders, especially at a time when costly crash verdicts are dragging carriers into news headlines. For many years, it has been an insurance underwriters’ dream to have in-cab cameras and a solid underlying telematics platform to enhance fleet risk management.
At AXA XL, we recently implemented a claim reporting system called Xtract which can tie directly into a fleet’s telematics system and immediately download accident information. This gives claims handlers an early start to managing the resulting claim and provides unbiased data related to the accident. Xtract provides our adjusters and attorneys with a professional and easy-to-read report which can be used to expedite claims payments and to assist with defense of wrongly accused drivers.
Although most commercial insurance companies have not been able to offer premium credits or discounts for camera usage, the savings that video and other data can reap against fraudulent claims can easily outweigh the initial set-up costs. Further, the training benefits and correction of unsafe driving practices afforded by in-cab cameras is a valuable safety program tool and a strong addition to a company’s risk management program.
LET’S BE SAFE OUT THERE!!!