Heavy goods vehicle drivers on the 117-mile M25 motorway in London are required to meet specific visibility standards after legislation was passed in 2019 because of the high number of pedestrian and bicyclist deaths involving heavy-duty trucks.
Similar regulations may not be too far behind in the U.S., said Steve Witt, founder of Driver Safety Technology, an IoT integrated safety, compliance and fleet management solution provider.
He said there are already talks among regulatory agencies around requiring – at minimum – a backup camera like is already regulated on newly manufactured passenger cars in the U.S.
“I believe we are going to see regulatory pressure on best practices for commercial fleets to include camera systems, minimum backup,” Witt said. “But what's also being discussed – because of the risks that come with larger vehicles, whether it's last-mile delivery vans for Amazon or tractor trailers – is that left and right blind-spot cameras are also of super high value because if you look at some of the accident data … you'll see that an alarmingly high percentage – somewhere around 40% – of these accidents are (related to) lane change.”
On passenger cars, backup cameras are no longer an option with a luxury add-on package, and while it isn’t yet regulatory, fleets are already adopting multi-camera technology as data has shown that backup cameras alone on passenger cars have significantly reduced accidents and could yield similar results for commercial trucks.
London’s legislation was the result of a root cause study in why cyclists were getting hit, and it found that those accidents were due to blind spots.
All vehicles have blind spots, but larger vehicles like heavy-duty trucks have broader areas of blind spots that can further compromise safety, which is a big driver in why more fleets are adopting multi-cam technology, said Michael Bloom, vice president of product at SmartWitness, which offers a 360-degree camera system.
Bloom said upwards of 55% of commercial fleets in the U.S. have adopted traditional telematics. About 6.5% of those fleets have adopted video telematics, and far fewer have adopted 360-degree video telematics. But he said that is growing as video telematics adoption in general continues to grow at a rate of 16% per year, according to SmartWitness.
“We have several clients in many different industries that are putting multiple cameras on vehicles,” Witt said. “We’re doing five, six, seven cameras in these commercial vehicles today.”
He said what’s driving demand is fleets want to be proactive to prevent accidents instead of reactive.
“They move from thinking reactively about the value of the camera system into a proactive headspace, whereby this camera system now becomes a driver assistance system allowing the drivers to have a better tool in their vehicle,” he said.
Witt said preventing accidents caused by blind spots reduces downtimes and the expenses associated with that – worst-case scenario being an accident that results in death and/or a nuclear verdict.
Interest in this type of technology is rising among insurance companies as well because not only can it help prevent accidents by providing easier navigation, but also it can reconstruct an accident in the event one occurs to show exactly what happened and sometimes exonerate the driver.
Bloom said traditional telematics is good at providing data that tells the when, where, who and what, but it doesn’t explain the why. Video shows the why.
“Let's say somebody gets into an accident. The vast majority of the time the commercial driver is the one cited as being at fault on the spot by the police,” Bloom said. “Certainly 85% of the time when the commercial driver is cited, and that goes through the whole litigation process, they're found not to be at fault. But without video showing exactly what happened as the proof, you have to go through that whole … process, which costs money, takes time.
“In some cases, drivers have to go on suspension through that process until it's figured out, and so there's impact to pay, and there's impact to retention and all kinds of bigger issues,” he added. “All go through it the vast majority of the time just to be acquitted. Video stops that whole process in its tracks because you can show the police officer on the scene, ‘Look, this is what happened; let me show you.’”
Multi-cam technology gives vision surrounding the entirety of the truck, providing more security for fleets than just a dash cam or backup camera. Bloom said cameras are mounted to the front, sides and back of a tractor trailer.
However, adding cameras to a trailer can be a barrier to adopting this technology. Witt said it is more difficult for the Class 8 sector to adopt multi-cam technology because the majority of fleets are not matched with the same trailer all the time, making ease-of-use not so easy when having to hook and unhook cables. He said DST is in the process of developing a wireless option.