-  Photo Courtesy of Black Book Studio

Photo Courtesy of Black Book Studio

Video telematics technology can support up to eight connected cameras per vehicle, providing near-360° visibility that can help prevent accidents, avoid accident-related litigation, and otherwise improve fleets’ risk mitigation efforts.

Less can be more, as the saying goes, but not in the case of video telematics. Forward-facing dashcams that capture a driver’s-eye view of the road ahead are ground zero of every deployment, but installing other cameras at various locations on fleet vehicles provides additional layers of risk reduction that can yield benefits ranging from preventing accidents to keeping your company out of court.

One box truck driver recently learned that lesson when he hit a car while making deliveries. The truck was outfitted with multiple cameras that documented the accident from every angle. Video from the road-facing, side and rear cameras showed that the passenger car had sped up from behind, passed the truck on the left, and was struck when trying to turn right from the lefthand lane in front of the commercial vehicle. Footage from the driver-facing camera showed that the trucker was alert and not distracted by activities like eating or texting.

Thanks to the near-360-degree view provided by the five-camera system, both the truck driver and the company were quickly exonerated with no lawyers’ fees, litigation or need to suspend the driver while the case dragged through the courts. Without the extra cameras, the outcome likely would have been quite different.

Even one camera can add important protection against false accident liability claims and other problems that fleets face on a regular basis. But every additional camera serves as an extra insurance policy that can mitigate the risk of a variety of mishaps and customer misunderstandings.

Certainly, multi-camera installations add to the cost of video telematics deployments, but they can benefit budgets in the long run by avoiding expenses like litigation, vehicle repair and theft-related losses as well as by improving the ability to identify risky driving behavior. The broader field of view enabled by multi-cam systems makes these savings possible by providing:

Improved road visibility for drivers

Rear and/or side cameras can help prevent fender benders as well as serious accidents by eliminating blind spots, providing back-up assistance, and aiding in navigating tight alleys, docks and congested traffic areas. Live video feeds from these cameras to a monitor on the dashboard can alert and assist drivers in real time. In the case of larger vehicles like vans used for last-mile delivery, views of areas that are otherwise blocked can also prevent injury to a pedestrian or bicyclist who happens to be out of the driver’s sightlines.

Better accident reconstruction

As indicated earlier, the availability of video footage covering every angle in and around a vehicle can frequently absolve fleets of liability in the event of an accident. If someone sideswipes a van, for example, a road-facing camera won’t “see” the incident, but side cameras will capture the culprit on video. If a vehicle is rear-ended, only a rear-facing camera can show whether the driver in back was tailgating, driving erratically or otherwise at fault. If a driver is accused of falling asleep or being distracted, only a driver-facing camera can show that he wasn’t. The extra video can help disprove bogus third-party claims that can tie a fleet up in court for months.

Visual evidence of cargo damage causes, theft and unauthorized vehicle use

Multiple cameras installed in vehicles like delivery vans and work trucks can pinpoint the root cause of package or equipment damage, such as a driver’s harsh turns or failure to load and unload items properly. These systems can also identify the perpetrators of cargo or vehicle theft. One commercial cleaning company discovered that a cargo van had been used without permission when cameras configured to operate for 30 minutes after ignition shutoff spotted an employee loading and unloading items from a storage unit over a weekend when no crews were working.  Cameras also can serve as deterrents to potential thieves who know a vehicle is equipped with a security system, particularly if the vehicle is equipped with door sensors that trigger cameras when the doors open.

Proof of service

Some fleets provide visual documentation of work performed and associated time-stamps to meet contract requirements. Others elect to supply this documentation to protect themselves against customer disputes. Either way, forward-facing cameras cannot typically fill the bill. Landscaping vehicles, for example, need side-facing cameras to capture images of finished jobs from where they park on the street.  Businesses like snowplowing and last-mile delivery services have similar needs, making more than one camera essential.  

Driver protection against accusations of improper behavior

Rear- and side-facing cameras enable fleets that interact with consumers to defend themselves against claims of aggressive or inappropriate conduct.  An ambulance service, for example, can use video telematics recordings to show how paramedics respond to belligerent, intoxicated or violent individuals if these cases come to court, showing why they may have needed to be restrained or otherwise controlled.

Replays for driver training and coaching

The near-360-degree replays made possible by supplemental cameras add context to footage captured by road-facing dashcams that can improve fleets’ training and coaching efforts. While forward-facing video can show a driver swerving into another lane, for example, other angles can show how the maneuver caused a near-collision with adjacent vehicles or those in the rear. Safety managers can also use the additional footage to show what a driver can and cannot see in different situations, illustrate common mistakes, replay accidents for instructional purposes, and so on.  

If you are considering a multi-camera deployment, be sure to:

  • Purchase commercial-grade cameras and accessories, including multi-channel high-definition DVRs that can capture and store video from all dashcams, and in-cab monitors that provide drivers with real-time camera views.
  • Confirm that your cameras have IP ratings ensuring they can withstand harsh conditions like storms and road salt, as well as commercial-grade SD cards that can last for three to five years despite constant recording and overwriting. Consumer dashcams lack these abilities.
  • Check to make sure that the telematics application you are considering has options for multi-camera video systems. Otherwise, you will only be able to see video from the road-facing camera.

Here's the bottom line. A forward-facing camera is a positive step in fortifying your fleet against risky driving behavior and false accusations of blame in accident situations, but it’s only a baseline. Fleet vehicles can benefit from multi-camera deployments for the same reason that many buildings install multiple surveillance cameras: to provide multiple points of protection. As video telematics continues to mature, more adopters will go the multi-cam route to build the strongest possible defense against the many challenges of keeping a fleet safe.

Michael Bloom is Head of Marketing for Sensata INSIGHTS, a global business unit of Sensata Technologies that provides end-to-end IoT solutions spanning the entire supply chain including logistics, telematics, and worksite monitoring and management.