Improving vehicle safety and reducing insurance costs

Published:  14 March, 2012

According to Brigade Electronics the two biggest issues for operators of local authority vehicles are improving safety and reducing costs associated with damages, false claims and rising insurance costs. This is backed up by the Health and Safety Executive report Mapping Health and Safety Standards in the UK Waste Industry, which says 60% of accidents in the industry were caused by workplace transport.

Brigade Electronics is a global market leader in vehicle safety systems with a comprehensive portfolio of products to increase driver visibility. Refuse vehicles in particular can weigh anything up to 26 tonnes and when combined with their size it means they are potentially very dangerous machines. Brigade's range of camera monitor systems help to eliminate driver blind spots and provide drivers with a much wider angle of view than mirrors.

For refuse operators, the front and rear blind spots are most significant. Vehicle manufactures have taken the front blind spot into account in recent years by lowering the cab to increase driver visibility but the blind spot still exists. This is a huge problem in the morning rush hour when drivers are trying to manoeuvre between tightly parked cars, often in traffic with pedestrians and children on their way to school. A small child or wheelchair-user crossing close to the front of the vehicle could be easily be lost from sight causing devastating consequences. A camera view can be triggered at low speeds to eliminate this risk.

The rear blind spot poses an even greater risk. A West Yorkshire waste management company was recently fined £75,000 after Bradford Crown Court found the company responsible for the death of an18-year old labourer in 2007. The young man was working in the tipper area when a skip loader backed into him, crushing him to death. The court was told that the reversing alarm had been disabled and the truck had been reversing without any visual aids. HSE inspector Paul Robinson said: “This incident was all the more tragic because it was avoidable. If the risks had been properly maintained and if appropriate safeguards had been put in place it might never have happened.” Since the accident CCTV and reversing alarms have been fitted to the company's wagons.

Refuse vehicles not only have the issue of reversing visibility but also face the risk of someone falling into the hopper. In the past operators have had to choose between the two rear blind spots or have considered the expense of two cameras, forcing the driver to switch the channel on the monitor manually. Brigade's team of engineers worked with local authorities to create a bespoke solution by providing full visibility of the rear using a single camera. The dual-function camera is mounted high on the back of the vehicle, typically on the number plate bracket. The motorised tilt lens provides a clear view into the hopper by default, but tilts rearwards to provide a panoramic rear view when reverse gear is elected. This provides peace of mind for the driver and aids the safety of the crew.

Vehicle safety systems can reduce collisions and save operators huge amounts of money, but transport operators are facing new problems associated with rising insurance premiums and false claims. One of the most common scams is for broken car door mirrors. Operators can't disprove claims and pay out an average of £250 per mirror, on an almost daily basis. Brigade's mobile digital recording system (MDR-304) can provide operators with the evidence to disprove claims.

Ashfield District council was receiving complaints of damage to parked vehicles, despite having a fleet fitted with blind spot aids and sensors. Whilst the council doubted the honesty of many of the accusations, they had no evidence to prove the contrary. That is until they installed Brigade's MDR-304.

Transport Services Manager, Ashfield District Council, David White explains: “The MDR helps us decide whether it is or isn't the fault of the driver. It actually makes the driver's life easier because he hasn't got to come and justify himself, as we already have it on film.”

Brigade's MDR-304 is a compact hard disk recorder (500 GB) connected to four cameras fitted on the vehicle, recording up to 780 hours of footage. It can simultaneously record real time images with data such as time, date, location and speed, providing irrefutable evidence.

David White said: “The system has been invaluable on a number of occasions where we have been able to disprove claims, saving the council a great deal of money.”

The MDR-304 is simple to install, fitting easily into a single DIN socket in the dash or elsewhere in the cab. The lockable hard drive is easily removed for connection to a PC or laptop for data download and interrogation, making data access simple, yet secure. An optional G sensor enables recording to be triggered when excessive force is registered such as the driver slamming on the brakes, hitting a kerb or object. This enables operators to quickly locate an event. This is ideal for fleet operators frustrated with knock for knock claims, false claims and rising insurance premiums.

Squibb Group, specialists in the demolition and dismantling sectors, recently invested a large sum of money changing vehicle type from Scania to Renault and rebranding its livery. With each lorry costing around £90,000, Transport Manager at Squibb, Danny Nolan, wanted to find ways to protect his investment. He explains: “Insurance premiums are ridiculously high and we wanted to find ways to reduce accident claims. Sideswipes are usually settled on a 50/50 basis even when we have witnesses to prove our claims. This means we are penalised even when we are in the right. We invested a lot of money in our trucks and the digital recording system now enables us to see exactly what happened.”

Brigade's mobile digital recorder was fitted to the vehicle of Squibb's most careful driver, Peter English, who had never had an accident through fault or non fault. Danny Nolan presumed there would be few incidents recorded. However for the first time in his career at Squibb, Peter English had a collision. He was adamant that he was not at fault but wasn't entirely sure how it had happened.

Squibb driver, Peter English explained the event: “I saw the car come around the roundabout. It was in the left hand lane to the services, I was in the middle lane to go straight on. Then I heard a clonk on the nearside. It all happened very quickly. I got out and the driver asked me what had happened. I explained that she had driven in to me and she disputed it. I explained that it didn't really matter because the vehicle's cameras would have recorded the entire event. I don't think she believed me.”

The lorry had a damaged step and the car was damaged on the front door and back quarter of the car. Danny Nolan reviewed the footage at head office, which clearly showed that the car driver was at fault. He said: “It is encouraging to know that Brigade's MDR-304 is helping to protect us. I sent the footage straight to our insurers. In the best case scenario without witnesses, this type of accident would be deemed as knock for knock, costing a total of £5,000. The MDR-304 has already paid for itself. I think insurance cover will be a struggle in the future for operators without these systems.”

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