U.S. Concrete Turns Cameras On Trucks, Drivers With Event Recording System

When Rick Maidens, director of safety and risk management at Houston-based U.S. Concrete Inc., first heard of a behavior-based Risk Mitigation Solution

When Rick Maidens, director of safety and risk management at Houston-based U.S. Concrete Inc., first heard of a behavior-based Risk Mitigation Solution in late 2005, he was intrigued to learn about how the system could enhance the company’s safety initiatives across its 2,800-vehicle fleet (commercial and noncommercial). Considering, at the time, U.S. Concrete Û a top 10 ready mixed producer with facilities in 12 states Û was averaging 172 vehicle accidents per year at a considerable cost per claim, any alternative seemed worth it.

The company’s safety program, which included behavioral observations, was good, but Maidens’ group was not seeing a substantial impact on the company’s bottom line that it sought. The mission was to reduce the frequency of accidents and costs per claim by improving driving behavior, but U.S. Concrete plant and safety managers lacked the ability to pinpoint and then reduce risky driving behaviors. DriveCam of San Diego offered a cost-effective solution to identify and correct such behaviors before they resulted in serious incidents.

Maidens quickly secured approval from U.S. Concrete senior management, which recognized the significance of actual behavioral evidence in helping coach drivers and in defending the company against false accusations. In December 2005, Maidens worked with a dedicated DriveCam team experienced in concrete and construction to pilot the solution in 95 Central Concrete (an operating arm of U.S. Concrete) vehicles based in San Jose, Calif. In January 2006, video event recorders had been deployed and signal transmitting hardware readied at the location.

Company mechanics installed video event recorders on windshields behind the rearview mirror, and members of the DriveCam Technical Implementation team fixed wireless access points in the yard to capture events from the vehicles when they return at the end of the day.

The recorders are exception-based, continuously recording sight and sound inside and outside the vehicle on a digital loop. They do not save an event unless triggered by an exceptional force such as hard braking, swerving, sudden acceleration or collision. When a mixer truck pulls back into the yard, recorded events are automatically uploaded to a local computer and then sent back to DriveCam for expert analysis. Saved events include not only the moment of exceptional force, but also 10 seconds before the moment and 10 second after. Drivers also have the option of triggering the camera anytime they want to record events that may be needed for analysis or evidence at a later time.

When vehicles return to the plant, the event recorders wirelessly download to a computer on site, which then transmits the recorded events to DriveCam’s office where staff checks the footage against U.S. Concrete’s policies and violations criteria. Analysts look for violations of traffic laws, violations of defensive driving principles, and aggressive driving behaviors, which are more subjective. DriveCam has 24 hours to get the results back to U.S. Concrete, with each incident marked as either resolved (no violation), violation marked as resolved (for minor infractions like not wearing a seat belt, cell phone usage, eating in truck), or major event/violation. If an event is tagged in such a way, the analyst will suggest proper conduct, and the driver is deemed in need of coaching. The safety manager shows the driver the video, and most times, according to Maidens, the driver knows what he did wrong and how to correct it. A coaching report is signed by the driver and coach and marked as resolved by the plant manager or safety expert.

While the event recorders began capturing risky driving events for Central Concrete, the analysts did not review the recordings, assign risk scores or deliver reports to U.S. Concrete supervisors to help them coach their drivers until July, when initial union resistance to the recorders was resolved. When we first introduced the technology, it was seen as an invasion of privacy, explains Maidens. Once the drivers realized that the triggers were set off by them and that we can’t turn them on whenever we want, they began to gain acceptance. Now, the drivers actually begin to compete against the cameras and make more of an effort not to set them off. It’s just part of the daily routine.

Dan Murray, safety and compliance manager of Central Concrete adds, Once we had the vehicles equipped with the systems, we rolled out a presentation for the Teamsters about the program, and did ride-alongs. It was designed to be a peer-to-peer demonstration. I won’t lie, it was a difficult and painful process. We spent three months negotiating with the unions, who saw this as a spy system and a disciplinary tool, which it isn’t. In the end, they never embraced it, but they understood it and eventually agreed.

Interestingly, while DriveCam analysts were not reviewing events captured by the recorders until July 2006, Central Concrete still saw an improvement in driving behavior once the recorders were installed. Knowing that any risky behavior was being recorded, if not reviewed, was enough to modify driver performance across the San Jose fleet. In fact, from January to July 2006, Central Concrete realized a 50 percent reduction in the total number of claims and a 61 percent reduction in cost per claim, compared to the same period in 2005.

U.S. Concrete moved to full-scale implementation across 15 northern California locations in July and quickly had about 425 vehicles outfitted with the video event recorders. In August, the company outfitted 78 vehicles in Maryland and Washington, D.C., with the recorders. And implementation is under way on 571 vehicles in the Dallas-Ft. Worth region, with full implementation across all U.S. Concrete vehicles expected by the end of 2007 Û making the company the first concrete producer to have an enterprise-wide system roll out.

When we introduce the system to a new location, I go there and give the DriveCam 101 introduction management training, says Maidens. From that point, 95 percent of the time, local safety and human resources reps train the drivers. After the systems are in place, I go back out and do some additional training for supervisors on the software, how to search, save and import events.

In the first 12 months, the results for U.S. Concrete have been significant, with Maidens reporting a 65 percent reduction in claims costs and a 30 percent reduction in accidents. In addition to reducing collisions and claims costs, the DriveCam solution has been instrumental in exonerating drivers in accident situations where they were initially assigned blame. Just recently, we had a fatality in Dallas-Ft. Worth, says Maidens. The Department of Public Safety reviewed the video and determined the incident was a suicide. That’s an extreme case, but the system does resolve most Îhe said/she saidÌ ambiguities. We’ve had at least three exoneration videos to date, and that has helped gain the support of the driving team for this technology. The system let’s us know whether we should fight a claim or put on our settlement hats.

In another instance, a driver was making a left turn from a legal left-turn lane when a passenger vehicle in a right-turn lane also went left. The passenger vehicle driver reported to police at the scene that the U.S. Concrete driver was at fault. A laptop was brought to the scene to download the saved event, which was shown to the officer on the scene and proved the truck driver’s innocence.

Central Concrete’s Murray adds, We’ve gotten requests from insurance companies for reimbursement in accidents involving our drivers, and we’ll just laugh because we have the proof it’s not our fault.

We’ve had other cases where a driver will trigger the camera to show a car cutting him off, or an entranceway to a job site that isn’t safe or winterized. We even had customers jump on to a vehicle and be abusive to our drivers, and he’ll just say, ÎYou’re being filmed right now.Ì

Murray believes the number of coaching sessions has probably decreased 30 to 35 percent since the program started. Some of the older rougher-riding trucks might trip the system more in a given day, but we know to expect that, he explains. It was actually an unpleasant surprise to find out how many drivers didn’t use seatbelts when we first started using this system. Obviously, that has changed.

Maidens is also quick to point out that the event recording devices are not just on mixer and dump trucks, but on all company-owned or -leased vehicles, including those driven by plant management. One of the most interesting things about this system is that it proves to drivers and to the public that we know about unsafe driving events, and we can track and correct them, says Maidens.
Û www.drivecam.com


A Risky driving event captured.

B Triggered event is downloaded.

C Events move into database for review, analysis and scoring.

D Driver coached; follow-up scheduled when necessary.

E Driver returns to field using guidance.