Protection from insurance claims is a major reason fleets install dashboard cameras (dashcams). According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) insurance fraud, including staged collisions, cost more than $1 billion a year in 2020 in added insurance premiums.
However, dashcams can also reduce the cost of other fleet management operations, through faster processing of insurance claims and less vehicle downtime, by promoting safer driver behaviour, and upholding fleet reputation and profits.
Reasons to install dashcams
Investment in dashcams can yield substantial savings. For example, some insurance companies offer discounts to commercial fleets that install the systems in their vehicles.
Other top reasons to install dashcams include:
- Helping to exonerate a driver after an accident, especially in cases of potential insurance fraud. An increasingly common tactic of such schemes is another driver staging an accident by, for example, slamming the brakes on while moving in front of the other vehicle. Video from a forward-facing dashcam could prove the braking manoeuvre was unnecessary.
- Providing useful evidence for non-fraudulent accidents.
An insurance company can use dashcam video to make a fair judgement, saving time and money on unnecessary arguments or disputes about what happened.
- Offering driver training in a safe environment.
Video from dashcams can provide fleets with an opportunity to educate young or new drivers in good driving behaviour by examining previous accidents or incidents. The instructor can show the best action in various situations, before the new drivers even get into their vehicle.
- Savings on fuel, and protection of the company's good name.
Fleet driver behaviour can be monitored by dashcams, recording driver behaviour on the road such as the number of stops, or if the driver takes longer routes than necessary. If a dual-lens camera is installed, the driver's activity in the vehicle can also be monitored, checking drivers are professional and use seatbelts while avoiding any cell phone use.
Basic factors to consider when considering dashcams
Once the decision to install a dashcam system is made, there are other practical factors to consider.
For example, from a management viewpoint, who will organise the system, communicate with drivers about the technology and how it fits into their daily routine, and maintain the database?
On the technology side, questions might include: what web platform is being used, is there a service plan, and can the system be customised? Does it offer remote diagnostics? Is the interface easy to use, and does it have both mobile and desktop applications? Are the dashcams reliable?
Strong customer service and system integrity should also be considered. For example, are the systems simple to mount and install? Are the dashcams driver tamper-resistant? Is customer service 24/7?
The dashcam system
Connectivity and video performance are important factors when choosing the dashcam system.
There are two types of connectivity, the cloud-connected and the local SD:
- Cloud-connected dashcams upload videos to the cloud through cellular networks. Data is instantly available to fleet managers, and systems send incident alerts. Most dashcams are network connected, although some are Wi-Fi connected only, which means there must be an internet connection before the data can be uploaded.
- SG dashcams, on the other hand, store the video and any related data on a local SD card. The cards have to manually taken out of the dashcams, and connected to a computer for data download, and the card returned to the dashcam.
Video should provide at least 25+ frames per second to give smooth HD images. Systems that use cloud storage connectivity generally offer the best quality video because data storage is not an issue. When an SD system is used, the limited data storage on the cards may mean a compromise between video quality and recording time.
Types of dashcams
Dashcam systems range from forward-facing to external, rear view mirrors, and dual facing. Some cameras also use infrared LED or HDR to allow for recording at night or in low-light situations. They may also use embedded artificial intelligence (AI) and other data to sense and alert drivers to any risky behaviours.
- Forward-facing dashcams records what is happening in front of the car. They may also offer features such as detecting if the vehicle is hit when it is stationary and unoccupied.
- Exterior dashcams, mounted on the outside of the vehicle, generally record a 360 degrees view, which includes the road and the vehicle.
- Rear-view mirror dashcams clip on to the interior mirror, allowing normal rear-view for the driver, while also recording the scene on video. They are not generally used in trucks because of the absence of internal mirrors.
- Dual-facing dashcams use two cameras to record different viewpoints. The second camera may point towards the rear of the vehicle or can be used to track driver behaviour if the wide-angle lens is set to record activity in the cab as well as outdoors.
The cost of a dashcam system depends on many variables, including the type of system, number of cameras, and fleet size. Many companies, such as BlackboxMyCar, offers fleet vehicle dashcam discounts.
(Please note: Companies are used as pricing examples only, and mention of them does not imply endorsement by CAF.)
For example, a front-facing AI-enabled dashcam costs $299 plus the $400 annual license from San Francisco-based Samsara, while a dual-facing AI dashcam from the same company is US$399 plus US$600 annual license.
A single-lens dashcam from the Dashcam Store is cloud-ready, with GPS and Wi-Fi, and costs between US$382.94 to $618.60. The cost for the company's dual-lens dashcam is between US$353.48 and US$486.04.
Canada Dashcam offers a single channel Wi-Fi dashcam for CA$394.99, and a dual-channel Wi-Fi dashcam for CA$469.99.