An Eye in the Cab for Safety

The cameras also documented that seat belt use increased 92% in the 11 months or so after the systems were installed.

Citing percentage improvements is possible, Pennesi said, because the SmartDrive systems were installed initially on 20 trucks and were used for three or four months to get a baseline reading of drivers’ current compliance.

Then drivers were told that the company was going to look for improvements in specific in-cab behaviors, including compliance with policies on handheld phones and use of seat belts. The changes occurred over the next eight months, Pennesi said.

The SmartDrive cameras were installed at the end of 2010, a year in which the Quarles Petroleum fleet had 10 DOT recordable crashes, five of them judged preventable by the company’s safety committee, he said.

“This year, we’ve had two DOT reportable crashes,” Pennesi said in early November.

Quarles Petroleum paid about $500 per truck for the equipment and installation and about $400 per year per truck for monitoring, Pennesi said.

“We’re starting to realize some payback,” he said, in terms of eliminating more risky behaviors. However, he said, a clear understanding of the payback will require three years of data.

Privacy Concerns

Drivers’ concerns about being watched faded as they became accustomed to the system, Pennesi said. “Probably 50% would have preferred that the cameras weren’t in the vehicle.” Virtually all of them since then have reversed their opinions, he said, as they see how the system can help document the details of an event.

Some drivers can be apprehensive about having a camera in the vehicle, Belcher, of DS Waters, acknowledged. “But if you take the time to explain its purpose and its benefits up front, the concerns are minimized,” he said. “After a few weeks, the event recorders just become second nature, and they aren’t given much thought.”

Drivers appreciate that video can exonerate them if an accident wasn’t their fault, Belcher added. “Many drivers also admit, sometimes reluctantly, that they are becoming safer operators,” he said. 

 
© 2012, Transport Topics Publishing Group. All rights reserved.

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