Windshield cameras capture view of other motorists, have the potential to uncover and correct your drivers’ bad habits.


You’ve probably seen the ads on TV claiming that good drivers can save up to 30 percent on their car insurance. All you have to do is plug a small tracking device into your vehicle’s diagnostic port under the dash and drive.

Data such as sudden changes in speed, how much you drive — even where and when you drive — is transmitted to the insurance company and analyzed to see if you qualify for a lower rate — or not.

Of course, everyone believes they’re a good driver and should pay less, which accounts for the growing popularity of Progressive’s Snapshot, State Farm’s Drive Safe & Save and similar programs.

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Currently these discounts only apply to noncommercial vehicles, but that doesn’t mean you and your business can’t benefit from tracking driver habits.

MANY BENEFITS

You’re probably already aware of the many GPS and dashcam devices available and might even have one in your truck. In addition to creating some amazing YouTube videos, the technology has the potential to reduce collisions, save lives, resolve litigation, improve fuel mileage, reduce maintenance and, yes, lower insurance costs.

Among the devices most recommended by insurance brokers is DriveCam by Lytx, as in analytics.

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“It’s a combination of what I call a GPS on steroids and a video camera,” says Mark Herring, senior vice president for Heffernan Insurance Brokers in Portland, Oregon, who insures about 4,000 trucks. “There’s a camera that faces forward so you can see what happens in front of the truck and one that shows what’s happening to the driver. You can tell if he’s texting, on the phone, eating a burger or dropped a cigarette.”

While most recording devices provide a continuous video loop, DriveCam delivers 12-second segments — eight seconds before and four seconds after an event — much like instant replay used by sports teams.

“Usually the base-base, where it’s just the video, will be about $15 to $20 per truck per month, and the Cadillac version, where they do all the work for you and provide a report, is going to be upwards of $59 a month,” says Herring, who believes every truck should have some type of a recording device.

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FOR THE INDUSTRY?

“If you have one or two trucks and it’s all family, you probably don’t need it for your guys, but you still need it for the other guys on the road who claim you did something,” he says. “I think it’s the best risk-management tool that a business with more than 10 trucks can have.”

Some contractors may say they would never exchange the privacy of their cab for an insurance discount. Others, such as Janelle Kick, co-owner of Purple Pumper in Hinckley, Minnesota, say they might consider such a device if it lowered their insurance cost.

“Possibly,” she says. “I never really thought of it for our big trucks. I always thought of it for cars and more personal applications, so I guess I never even asked.”

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Steve Mular, vice president of family-owned Parkway Services in Ypsilanti, Michigan, says his company has GPS and backup cameras on all its trucks.

“We save a little,” he says. “But it could also work against you in court if your driver was speeding.”

Herring says most good insurance companies will provide a 5 percent credit if you have some type of monitoring system and up to 10 percent if you have DriveCam, but it’s not something an underwriter is likely to offer — you need to ask.

A DVR RECORDER

The DriveCam program by Lytx consists of a camera that’s attached to the windshield. It shows what’s ahead of the vehicle and what’s happening in the cab.

“It’s kind of like a DVR recorder,” says Greg Lund, director of corporate communications for Lytx. “It’s always recording, but it doesn’t save until there’s what we call an event — a hard brake, a swerve. An example would be a driver going down the road and someone cuts in front and he has to brake really hard.”

Data is uploaded via a modem to reviewers at Lytx who send clips of significant events along with a report back to the customer. Event data can be used to resolve litigation and help employees become better drivers, Lund says.

“We look at which of the drivers are exhibiting behaviors that need coaching, which drivers are doing great and those in the middle,” he says. “What we’re looking for is the root cause of risky driving. We follow about 100 different behaviors, from using the cellphone to driving too fast, to not looking far enough ahead. We also have a lot of videos that show the driver doing some heroic things to avoid collisions.”

Each behavior is assigned a value and drivers are ranked according to those needing the most coaching and their likelihood of being in an accident.

COSTS CAN BE OFFSET

The subscription service costs about $50 per vehicle per month for most large fleets. Lytx also offers a less-expensive program for fleets with 10 or fewer vehicles called DC (DriveCam) Protect.

“Anybody that wants to lower their risk, anybody that wants to improve driving behavior among their fleet, those are the clients that come to us,” Lund says. “Through better driving, we also feel you can save fuel costs by up to about 12 percent.”

Lund says fleets that have the most success with the DriveCam program are those that use it in a positive manner.

“By that I mean they don’t put the hammer down on a driver who might have a few behaviors that need to be fixed, but work with him to improve and then reward him when he does.”


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