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Onboard with video: Arnold Transportation targets driver distractions with opt-in safety strategy

Eric Nelson, Arnold Transportation’s vice president of safety

Eric Nelson, Arnold Transportation’s vice president of safety, has led company efforts to prevent distracted driving behaviors. Photos by Scott Light

Eric Nelson will never forget May 26, 2016. The day’s events are imprinted in memory, in vivid detail, starting with a phone call.

“Did you guys just have an accident?”

The caller was Howard Rogers, a regional sales rep for SmartDrive. He had been in contact with Nelson, vice president of safety for Arnold Transportation, before and after the fleet started to deploy the SmartDrive video-based driver safety system in late 2015.

Nelson was in the middle of unloading his travel bags from a car trunk at Arnold Transportation in the Dallas suburb of Grand Prairie, Texas.

“No,” replied Nelson.

“Are you sure?” asked Rogers.

More details became available as Nelson entered his office. An Arnold tractor-trailer had rolled over in North Texas. Quickly, he threw his bags into his vehicle and drove to the scene of the accident.

Nelson had been on accident scenes like this before in his trucking career. Everything, from the path of the vehicle to the direction of the sun, lead him to believe the driver had fallen asleep at the wheel. He wasn’t the only one.

“What do you think the driver was doing?” asked the police chief before answering his own question. “I think the driver dozed off.”

Nelson gathered some information and called Howard back. He was on his way to the hospital to see the driver.

SmartDrive event recorder

The SmartDrive event recorder, installed in an Arnold truck, captures forward and inward-facing video footage of critical safety events for review and driver coaching.

“I need that clip,” he said.

The truck was equipped with a SmartDrive video event recorder. Software algorithms had detected a “trigger event” from excessive g-force or activation of the truck’s anti-rollover system, among other sensor data.

The system saves data and video of critical safety events in 20-second clips, with 10 seconds of footage before the trigger event and 10 seconds after.

The driver was transported to a hospital for treatment and observation.  As soon as Nelson arrived at the hospital he opened his laptop to check his email. The video showed the driver had not fallen asleep but had been disabled by an incident that appeared to be caused by a medical condition.

The video shows the truck veer off the interstate, cross a service road and then roll over in a ditch filled with water.

After watching the video Nelson met the doctor. “The driver is okay,” she says. “He probably fell asleep at the wheel and only needed a few stitches.”

The driver is getting ready to leave as Nelson plays the clip for the doctor. Upon viewing the clip, the doctor asks permission to show it to her medical staff. The driver is ordered to stay for further evaluation and a few days later is diagnosed with a severe medical condition previously unknown to him.

This clip not only protected the driver and the public, but the awareness of an otherwise unknown medical condition led Nelson to “beef up” the driver screening process to identify future drivers who may be at risk.

Arnold Transportation uses the video-based system in many other ways to build on its safety efforts and deliver big results. To learn in more detail how Arnold Transportation has retooled its safety program with a heavy focus on preventing distracted driving, click one or more of the topics below:

Changing the culture: Arnold Transportation made fundamental changes to its safety programs that set the stage for adding video and analytics.


Focused on distraction: Management has taken a different approach towards video event recorders. Rather than mandate their use, the technology is installed in trucks for drivers that voluntarily agree to use it.


Risk awareness and training: Arnold Transportation turns analytics and insights into results through driver orientation training, ongoing coaching and communications.


Future improvements: Going forward, the company is working to develop a comprehensive driver scorecard from multiple data sources.



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Aaron Huff is the Senior Editor of Commercial Carrier Journal. Huff’s career in the transportation industry began at a family-owned trucking company and expanded to CCJ, where for the past 14 years he has specialized in covering business and technology for online and print readers and speaking at industry events. A recipient of numerous regional and national awards, Huff holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Brigham Young University and a Masters Degree from the University of Alabama.