Norfolk haulier Jack Richards & Son has equipped its fleet with SmartDrive Systems’ video-based driver risk management programme in order to better manage driver performance and on-road risk – and the company says it is already seeing demonstrable safety benefits.
SmartDrive Systems’ driving performance solutions are said to reduce collisions and improve fuel efficiency. Jack Richards has so far installed the SmartDrive programme in 161 of its fleet vehicles. This combines road facing and in-cab cameras with a fully managed analysis service, as well as SmartDrive’s extended recording option.
Jack Richards & Son initially looked for a camera system that could help it have rapid access to footage of on-road events. However, the quality and reliability of standard dash cams did not meet the company’s expectations.
“The quest to find a reliable camera system was paramount to the safe operation of the fleet,” said the company’s Palletways depot principal, Dominic Purslow. “Having dabbled with various simpler sole camera systems of different types, their limitations soon became apparent.”
He also found that the job of retrieving and monitoring footage from dozens of trucks in-house is extremely labour and time-intensive.
“Our goal was to achieve a robust and reliable system, but the main issue was one of administration and reaction time,” he said.
“Looking after a fleet of cameras becomes nearly impossible.”
SmartDrive’s product met the company’s tests for service, reliability and the potential to lower costs and improve safety.
Said Purslow: “The SmartDrive solution has proved to be straightforward, easy to install, simple in use and, most importantly, the review service removes the administrative costs and provides the early notification of on-road events that would normally never become known.”
The roll-out of the system showed benefits almost immediately, he reports.
“We have had two simple examples recently. In the first, a parked driver was approached by someone clearly intending to commit a crime. The in-cab camera identified the offender. And, in the other, an agency driver had a harsh braking incident and the footage revealed he was using his mobile phone while driving, which is absolutely not allowed in our fleet.”
Purslow acknowledges that without the in-cab camera footage, the company would not be able to identify the causes of dangerous behaviours, such as harsh braking, only the outcomes.
SmartDrive’s video-based system shows the vehicle event, with views of what’s happening on the road and in the cab at the same time, giving companies their first real opportunity to manage driver distraction and other risky behaviours.
Purslow says the cameras also protect the fleet from crash-for-cash incidents, gives them rapid first notification of loss (FNOL) and ensures that the company does not bear the cost of 50-50 insurance outcomes where their driver was not actually at-fault.
“A huge benefit is the straightforward evidence of fault from the cameras,” said Purslow.
“SmartDrive was much better for us than the previous systems we had used for collision recording because we now know about the incident rapidly through the alert system and we do not have to retrieve the memory card after the event – the footage is automatically offloaded via the cellular network and we are notified. You get what you pay for and this system works.”
The SmartDrive system is live whenever the engine is engaged, and exceptional events, such as harsh braking or sudden course corrections, will trigger 20 seconds of video capture, typically 10 seconds either side of the event. This is uploaded automatically, along with GPS positioning and base telematics data, to SmartDrive’s own review centre, where it is reviewed by its highly trained safety team.
The footage is analysed against dozens of pre-determined ‘observations’ or driver behaviours and assigned a risk-score in line with Jack Richards’ corporate policies. This is then fed back to the company via a dedicated, secure online portal for use in driver coaching.
Critical events, such as high-impact collisions will trigger an immediate alert to relevant parties. Drivers can also manually trigger footage capture if necessary.
SmartDrive runs extensive driver briefings and meetings to explain the system to drivers.
It says that, in its experience: “drivers are concerned about their privacy and so want to know that the system is only live when the engine has been fully engaged and not when they are at rest.
“SmartDrive has also observed that any driver hesitation within a fleet is rapidly dispelled by the first instance of a driver being exonerated by event footage.”