Fleet telematics devices and dash cams are valuable tools for fleet operators who seek to improve safety, reduce wear and tear on vehicles, and minimize liability. By combining the power of these tools, fleet operators can reduce accidents, avoid false claims, and save critical taxpayer dollars.
By Karine Gidali

In the U.S., nearly 240 million metric tons of garbage is produced annually, then disposed of in more than 2,600 landfills throughout the country. As these complex, highly specialized fleets set out to collect the community’s garbage, they face a unique set of challenges. Operators may encounter an individual refusing to obey work zone guidance or a distracted motorist not anticipating when a garbage worker may jump off the truck to collect the next bin, creating dangerous, sometimes fatal conditions for both employees and the community.

According to a recent SWANA report, garbage collectors remain one of the top 10 most dangerous jobs in the U.S., with two fatal accidents involving collection services per week. Last year, the waste management industry saw a nearly 65 percent increase in worker fatalities, with 35 percent representing solid waste workers in the public sector.As waste management operators look to combat worker fatalities in the industry, operators are increasingly looking to technology to assist with their safety efforts. Waste management telematics and video-based safety solutions are critical for increasing community and operator safety, improving operational efficiency, and enhancing citizen services while retaining valued drivers and mechanics.

This guide breaks down the benefits of telematics and video-based safety and concludes with advice on how to get buy-in for your waste management safety program.

The Power of Telematics and Video to Boost Safety
If you manage a fleet of vehicles and have not invested in dash cams yet, now might be the time. Dash cams enable a robust fleet safety program, real-time visibility into operations, and data-driven insights into driving behaviors, fuel usage, and more that are critical to enhancing safety and improving operations.

Athens-Clarke County uses Samsara to navigate routes more efficiently and avoid unsafe driving behaviors.

Part 1—Understand the Technology
What Are Dash Cams?
Dash cams, also known as dash cameras or dashboard cameras, are an extremely effective safety tool for commercial fleets. From coaching drivers to exonerating your company from false claims, they can be used in a variety of ways to improve fleet safety and reduce costs.

How Dash Cams Work
Dash cams are cameras that can be installed in a vehicle to capture footage of the road ahead and activity inside the cab. The best dash cams are integrated with a telematics solution with a g-sensor, so the system can automatically detect safety-related events—like harsh braking, harsh turning, and collisions—and upload incident footage to the cloud. There are a variety of different types of dash cams that can be deployed for various purposes, but generally fleets install dash cams because they are looking for better visibility into on-the-road safety and footage that they can use to exonerate innocent drivers in case of an accident.

Why Are Dash Cams Worth the Cost?
One of the biggest objections to investing in dash cams is the cost. Although the initial cost of dash cams might seem expensive, video-based safety solutions have been proven to reduce overall fleet operating costs and quickly pay for themselves. In fact, the NSTSCE found that when combined with driver coaching, dash cams reduced safety-related events by 52 percent.

The Benefits of Dash Cams for Waste Management Fleets
Before diving into the different types of dash cams, it is important to take a step back and understand why government fleets are investing in this technology. Following are five major benefits of dash cams:
1. Promote a culture of safety: A major safety benefit of AI-enabled dash cameras is that they can help reinforce safe driving behavior and build a culture of safety, preventing a problematic incident before it happens.
2. Avoid false claims: In car-truck accidents, trucks are only at fault about 26 percent of the time—but they get blamed far more often. Internet-connected dash cams can auto-upload incident footage to the cloud within minutes, making it easy to exonerate innocent drivers on the spot, bypass lengthy claims processes, and eliminate unnecessary payouts.
3. Lower insurance costs: When it comes to insurance premiums, safety is a big factor. Because dash cams are proven to improve safety and mitigate risk, your insurance company may offer a premium discount, credit, or subsidy for installing AI dash cameras and sharing safe driving data.
4. Reduce vehicle wear and tear: Harsh braking wears out brake pads and causes unnecessary stress on vehicles. Combined with a telematics system, dash cams can play in-cab audio messages when safety-related events are detected, helping to discourage harsh driving and reduce physical damage and maintenance costs.
5. Minimize labor costs: It might be surprising, but dash cams can reduce labor costs in a few different ways. With digital driver safety scorecards and video-based coaching tools, your back-office team can coach drivers more efficiently. Plus, dash cams make it possible to create a robust rewards program, which is proven to increase engagement and retention, leading to lower turnover, and hiring costs.


The Samsara Safety Inbox allows managers to proactively identify coachable moments and give drivers feedback using actual footage of themselves.
Images courtesy of Samsara.

Part 2—Evaluate Your Options
Dash cams are not one-size-fits-all. There are a variety of different types of dash cams available—but some are better suited for government fleets than others.

Dash Cams for Consumers Versus Government Fleets
If you Google “dash cams,” you are likely to find dash cams meant for consumers on websites like Amazon. Some of the most popular consumer dash cam brands include Sony, Thinkware, and Vantrue. While these dash cams can be helpful for people looking to install an inexpensive camera in their personal vehicle, they are not meant for government fleets. They usually have a memory card that must be manually retrieved to download footage, posing logistical challenges for fleets managing multiple vehicles and drivers.
Dash cams for government fleets are more robust—both in terms of the features they offer and the value they can provide. Dash cams that are purpose-built for government fleets connect to a telematics device that provides WiFi and can detect safety-related events, like harsh braking, speeding, and collisions. That way, these dash cams can auto-upload video footage from safety-related events to the cloud, making it easy for your back-office staff to review safety-related events and coach drivers effectively.

Different Dash Cam System Features
Once you decide what configuration best fits your needs, you will also want to consider the variety of different features available. From artificial intelligence (AI) to night vision, following are a few of the most important dash cam system features to consider:
Artificial intelligence: The most advanced dash cam systems include built-in artificial intelligence (AI), so they can detect safety issues without a g-force trigger—like rolling stops and distracted driving. AI makes it possible to coach drivers on risky behavior and near misses.
Harsh event detection: The best dash cam systems use a built-in gyroscope and accelerometer to automatically detect harsh driving events—like harsh braking or a collision—and auto-upload footage to the cloud.
Field of view: This is how much of the road (or inside of the cab) the dash cam system can see. To ensure your dash cam system captures a broad field of view, look for a wide angle or semi-wide-angle lens.
• Audio speaker and recording: Some dash cam systems include built-in speakers that can play verbal and/or audio alerts when unsafe driving behavior is detected, like cell phone use or speeding. You may also be able to turn on recording to capture audio during safety events.
Internet connectivity: Most dash cam systems have a micro-SD card or memory card that stores footage locally, but more advanced dash cam systems can connect to the Internet via high-speed cellular connections that let you send footage to the cloud, providing nearly instant access to footage.
Resolution: Resolution (or image quality) depends on how many pixels the dash cam system records. High-quality forward-facing dash cam systems should record video in 1080p full HD, which will make it possible for you to see the road ahead clearly and make out numbers on license plates.
Mounting: The two most popular ways to install dash cam systems are via a suction cup (or suction mount) or via adhesive. Some dash cam systems may also attach to your rear-view mirror. Adhesive attachments are generally a more secure option that still offer quick and easy installation.
Night vision: Some dash cam systems are optimized for capturing footage at night or in low-light conditions. If your drivers often operate at night, look for a dash cam system with infrared LED, which is particularly important for capturing video footage of unlit cabs.

Part 3—Select the Right Vendor
With so many dash cam vendors on the market, it is impossible to try every single option. How can you narrow it down? Here are a few things to consider when selecting the best dash cam solution for your fleet.

Internet Connectivity
Internet connectivity is key for any fleet that wants to use dash cams as a proactive safety tool. Without Internet connectivity, dash cams can only store footage on a local memory card—meaning someone must manually retrieve the footage from the vehicle. On the other hand, dash cams that are connected to a telematics device with WiFi and cell service can auto-upload event footage to the cloud. This makes it possible for fleet managers to coach and exonerate drivers in real time.

Everything You Need in One Integrated Platform
When evaluating dash cam solutions, look for an integrated platform that offers dash cams and connected driver and admin apps in one, unified solution. Why? Beyond consolidating your tools and simplifying your workflows, an all-in-one platform connects the dots between your data, unlocking better insights and larger safety improvements.

Getting Telematics and Video-Based Safety Buy-In
In order to maximize an investment in a telematics and video-based safety solution, stakeholder buy-in is key. Whether you are focused on getting leadership, driver, or union support for a telematics and video-based safety program, it is important to remind stakeholders how these tools improve safety for the community and operators. Use the following checklist to have clear communication and an open dialogue with your stakeholders:
1. Nail down your timeline: Communicate the rollout timeline in advance and give drivers and staff plenty of notice before you begin installing. Hold regular Q&As with drivers so they can ask questions and raise concerns.

2. Focus on the benefits: Tell the drivers why you invested in dash cams. Share specific goals or behaviors you are targeting if you have them. Exoneration is the most powerful way to get skeptical drivers supportive of dash cams. If you have an example of a near miss or not-at-fault collision that was captured by a dash cam, share the footage with all of your drivers.

3.Be clear on the use: Dash cams are meant for driver protection and safety. Without knowing how the technology works, drivers may assume that the cameras are there to watch them. Dispel misunderstandings by explaining how safety events are detected, how footage can be accessed, and who can access the footage.

4. Emphasize the flexibility: The right telematics and video-based safety program will seamlessly integrate with your current systems via open API, providing your team ease of use and critical data from all systems.

5. Solidify procedures: Make the disciplinary program very clear so drivers know what to expect if they get caught doing something wrong more than once.

6. Celebrate footage of defensive driving: Make sure to recognize when dash cams capture footage of drivers responding appropriately, like braking to avoid a collision when they are cut off. Consider sending a weekly or monthly e-mail to all drivers that highlights footage of excellent driving.

7. Enable optional features in stages: It can be tempting to enable every optional feature—like in-cab alerts for AI events—at once. This can be overwhelming for drivers. For the first few weeks, keep all optional features toggled off, then introduce them in stages.

As SWANA and waste management fleets across the country work towards getting collection workers off the list of the ten occupations with the highest fatality rate, it’s critical to implement a video-based fleet safety solution. Fleet telematics devices and smart dash cams are valuable tools for fleet operators who seek to improve safety, reduce wear and tear on vehicles and minimize liability. By combining the power of these tools, fleet operators can reduce accidents, avoid false claims, and save critical taxpayer dollars. | WA

Karine Gidali is Director Product Marketing for the Public Sector of Samsara, which is the pioneer of the Connected Operations™ Cloud, a system of record that enables organizations that depend on physical operations to harness Internet of Things (IoT) data to develop actionable insights and improve their operations. Samsara provides government agencies real-time data to elevate their citizen services, maximize taxpayer dollars, and keep their communities safe. For more information, visit https://samsara.com/industries/state-local-government/.

• https://wasteadvantagemag.com/swana-reports-increase-in-2022-worker-fatalities/