So, you've made the decision to implement dashcams, but how do you ensure you maximise the health and safety benefits for everyone involved? EROAD safety expert Chris Evans shares key onboarding tips.
If you’re already using telematics to monitor driver behaviour and your fleet performance, dashcams are the next frontier.
Dashcam footage provides context and clarity that was previously unavailable, allowing you to see exactly what happened, both outside and inside the vehicle, and proactively coach drivers before small infractions snowball into something more serious.
Naturally, because the technology is relatively new and not well understood, drivers can be apprehensive about the feeling of being monitored. And some fleet managers may be unsure about how to deliver driver feedback in an empathetic, constructive way – particularly in the case of difficult conversations.
The most important thing for all parties to understand is that we all want the same outcome: for everyone to arrive home safely at the end of the day. That means not just your drivers but other road users as well. Because they aren’t professional drivers, other motorists are most often the cause of fatal accidents involving trucks. And because of the sheer mass involved in a collision with a heavy vehicle, they’re also the ones less likely to survive.
As professional drivers and transport operators, the onus is on us to make roads safer for everyone. Yes, there are operational benefits associated with dashcam use, such as reduced insurance and repair costs, but the single most important reason for using dashcams is to enhance safety.
A study for Road Transport Forum New Zealand named management failure as the biggest factor in accidents where trucks are at fault. Management failure tops the list because, the study says, business entities controlling transport operations have the greatest influence on safety. How you use your influence to lead your team could literally mean the difference between life and death.
Chris Evans, EROAD’s H&S Manager is an IOSH Chartered Health and Safety professional with 26 years of experience in the O&G, construction, transport and retail industries with a keen focus on road safety, safety culture, wellbeing, risk assessment, auditing and investigation.
Before getting started with dashcams, make sure your driver code of conduct and other policies have been updated to include their usage. That way, everyone knows what to expect and you have an official standard to review behaviour against. But don’t make the mistake of trying to include everything but the kitchen sink: Communicate only what the driver needs to know in a format that can be remembered or accessed when needed.
"Ensure that your policy covers the risk of seeing graphic footage, taking into account that you don’t want close friends of accident victims viewing that footage,” says EROAD Health & Safety Stakeholder Manager Chris Evans. “Also make sure you have an effective employee assistance programme in place to support people in dealing with any trauma from what they may have seen."
Be clear, concise, and consistent as to why you are implementing dashcams from the start. Be proactive and positive in your communication style and lead from the top, with 'one rule for all'.
Determine what needs to be communicated, how often, and in what format and complexity. "After one hour, people retain less than half of the information, which drops to 25% after six days,” says Chris, “so don’t expect a training session to deliver the holy grail of competency."
Make it fun and memorable whenever possible, reinforce your messages at informal toolbox talks, and invite people to voice any questions or concerns they may have. “Don’t rush it – phase it in and demonstrate that feedback received is taken into account."
When rolling out a dashcam programme:
Explain how dashcams will help the company, drivers, and management. Emphasise that dashcam footage can help exonerate drivers in accidents where they were not at fault, which is most often the case.
By inspiring pride in a job well done, stimulating friendly competition, and possibly making compliance part of your requirements to earn pay rises or promotions, you can create a safety-focused culture and reduce your incident rate.
Depending on the offence committed and your role in the business, WorkSafe can impose penalties of up to $3 million and five years in prison.
Even if your driver isn’t liable, the psychological toll of being involved in a fatal crash and wondering what could have been done to prevent it can be soul-shattering, to the point of never wanting to get in a truck again.
Being able to objectively see what happened in the moments leading up to the crash can provide reassurance that is worth its weight in gold.
"We don’t want drivers driving along and thinking that their supervisor can just log in and watch that driver drive."
Make it clear that dashcams are designed to capture incident footage only, not all behaviour all the time.
Besides, if your drivers aren’t doing anything wrong, they really have nothing to worry about.
In the case of the EROAD Clarity dashcam, the camera is always on when the vehicle’s ignition is, but only a harsh driving event – harsh acceleration, braking or steering – will trigger a 20-second video clip to be sent to the MY EROAD web platform for review. If no event occurs, after 40 hours of drive time, the data is overwritten.
The driver can also manually initiate video recording, to protect themselves in certain situations, and the fleet manager can request footage for review as needed, as in police or insurance investigations.
Normalise dashcam use as quickly as possible. Champion when dashcam footage helped a driver and the company discredit untrue third-party reports of bad driving or an accident. Recognise any drivers whose defensive actions averted a more serious outcome and ask if they’d be okay with sharing their video footage with the group as an example of what to do in a similar situation. Share data showing any cost savings or other efficiencies seen since implementation.
When you do have to pull a driver in to discuss an incident, always approach it from a place of caring and concern and assume that no one wants to drive badly. Build a rapport and attempt to develop an understanding of any personal struggles the driver may be going through, particularly if the behaviour is unusual for them. Remember that dashcam footage should never be used to chastise subpar performance. Rather, it should be used as a driver aid – and as part of a trusting partnership between management and drivers.
Good, experienced drivers are an increasingly rare resource, and New Zealand roads require a high level of skill to navigate. Let them know they are valued and that you’re investing time and resources in them precisely because you value them, both as employees and human beings.
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