Spy-in-the-cab cameras put brakes on reckless lorry and van drivers
Quote:White van man will no longer escape detection when he drives recklessly, thanks to a spy-in-the-cab device that uses cameras to monitor the driver and watch the road ahead.
The device is expected to save companies with fleets of vans thousands of pounds on repairs and insurance. Employers say that the system deters drivers from taking risks because they know that the camera will record any aggressive manoeuvres.
It uses a motion sensor that is triggered by any jolts, impacts, swerving, sharp braking or aggressive acceleration. The cameras operate on a loop and the device captures and stores 30-second video clips of what happened before, during and after each incident.
The clips are uploaded automatically when the van returns to base and the incidents are forwarded to independent assessors who grade the severity of each incident. All of the drivers are given a safety ranking and those found to be driving aggressively and taking risks can be sent for training.
The device, called SmartDrive, helps companies to identify which drivers are breaking laws such as using hand-held mobile phones, smoking or not wearing their seatbelts. The forward-facing camera helps to identify who was responsible for a collision and can protect the driver from false claims or resolve disputed incidents.
West Horsley Dairy, a catering delivery company based in Woking, Surrey, found that its spending on vehicle repair and insurance excess payments halved after it installed the cameras on its fleet of 35 lorries. It spent £10,200 in the first three months of last year but only £5,700 in the same period this year, despite having six more lorries.
The company had a long-running problem with damage for which no driver would admit responsibility. It was also having to accept joint liability for claims in which it believed the other driver was at fault, including one in which a motorist cut across in front of a van on a motorway and then claimed that he had been hit from behind.
The cameras act as a constant witness and we can see precisely what happened in situations where formerly it would just be one driver's word against another's, Roger Heels, the company's general manager, said. The device, which costs about £1,500, is even triggered if the doors are slammed too heavily. This has helped to reduce noise disturbance from night deliveries in residential areas.
Mr Heels admitted that some of the drivers were unhappy about having Big Brother in the cab watching for mistakes. In the first few weeks, one driver covered the camera with a baseball cap and another used silver foil.
It was easy to tell who was doing that because the footage was blank, he said.
Mr Heels managed to persuade his staff to accept the device by offering them a £100 bonus for each quarter in which they had no collisions or vehicle damage.
Alan Pitt, one of the drivers, said: If they were tripping the cameras every five minutes to see what we were doing then it would have been unacceptable. But they are tripped only if there is an incident and a good driver has nothing to fear.
The system has already helped me in an altercation with a black taxi in which the cabbie claimed it was my fault but the clip showed I was stationary and he drove into my mirror. Another driver lost his bonus last month and was given extra training after running into the back of a car after failing to spot that it was braking. The footage also showed the driver being thrown forward because he was not wearing his seatbelt.
Travis Perkins, the building supplies company, and Kelly Group, a broadband cable installer, are among other companies that have equipped their fleets with the devices recently.
Scott Raske, SmartDrive's managing director, said that the equipment could protect companies from prosecution under the new Corporate Manslaughter Act, under which businesses face unlimited fines for a fatal collision if they are found to have failed to take steps to ensure that their staff were driving safely. It also reduces fuel consumption and vehicle wear by encouraging drivers to drive safer and softer.
In 2006 Britain's three million light goods vehicles were involved in 274 fatal crashes and 1,818 collisions in which at least one person was injured seriously.
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