By changing driver behavior and instilling a sense of responsibility to make the good decisions, our roads—and your fleet—will become inherently safer.

Jason Palmer

When it comes to waste and recycling fleets, safety and efficiency are among the top concerns for managers. The risks in this industry are significant. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics pegs the waste and recycling sector as the fifth-most dangerous private sector occupation, as ranked by fatal injury rate. While fatalities in the industry declined slightly in 2016, there is more to be done to protect drivers, assets and others on the road.

Companies face a number of safety threats and must take proactive steps to mitigate risk and ensure business success. In the case of collisions, the impact extends beyond physical damage to the vehicle. With waste and recycling fleets frequently operating in congested environments, such as residential neighborhoods with families and small children, personal injury is of utmost concern. In addition to the cost to repair or replace fleet assets, crashes often result in legal setbacks and liability claims, damage to brand reputation, harm to an individual or worse.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration found that in 2016 an estimated 119,000 people were injured in crashes involving large trucks—an increase of 22 percent from the year prior. This statistic suggests a likely increase in claims filed against commercial fleets, negatively impacting fleets’ bottom line and overall business reputation. However, statistics from the U.S. Department of Transportation tell us that close to 80 percent of crashes involving heavy trucks are not the truck driver’s fault. With video-based safety technology, fleets can protect and exonerate drivers, alleviate other risks to fleet assets and brand perception, and improve financial performance. In fact, a study from the AAA Foundation found that video-based onboard safety systems that provide insight into driving behaviors can prevent as many as 63,000 crashes, 17,733 injuries and 293 deaths each year.

The Driver Makes the Difference

With collisions increasing—along with injuries and fatalities, fleets are looking for solutions to help improve safety. While the accelerating evolution toward autonomous driving and other factors are leading to more technology in the vehicle, fleets are finding that it is not technology but the driver who makes the difference when it comes to safety. The most cost-effective and efficient way to improve driver safety is with a video-based safety program.

No matter what type of technology is on the vehicle, it is still the driver who is in control and offers the biggest opportunity to reduce collision frequency. In fact, some fleet managers have stated that, “The driver is the most important technology in the vehicle!” underscoring the value of investing in driver safety.

More than 40,000 people were killed on our roadways in 2017 and many of those deaths were due to distracted driving.1 From cell phones and dashboard infotainment systems to evolving voice command features—all pose a threat to our safety. Just one second of your drivers’ attention is all it takes to change a life forever. Bringing a habit such as distracted driving to a driver’s attention and coaching the driver to change that habit will immediately make a difference. Improved driving behaviors will keep your drivers safe and protect others on the road.

Distracted drivers are less safe overall and exhibit fundamental driving errors at a significantly higher rate than all other drivers.2 Collision drivers have higher distraction rates than non-collision drivers in all categories, but drivers distracted by mobile devices are at even more risk than those distracted by other means.3

Distracted driving is only one example of risky driving behavior. With a video-based safety solution, fleet managers gain immediate visibility to a broad set of driver behaviors that affect road safety, such as falling asleep at the wheel, speeding or following too closely. Among other valuable benefits, companies that use a video-based safety system have experienced a 75 percent reduction in close following and 74 percent drop in instance of fatigued driving.4 

Before onboard cameras, fleets had to rely solely on the perceived context of a collision from the participants and witnesses. In a “he said-she said” situation, the blame often falls on the driver of the large commercial vehicle—whether warranted or not. Video provides indisputable evidence of what happened in a collision, exonerating the driver when not at fault and saving the company from paying out unnecessary claims. If the driver is at fault, the fleet can settle disputes quickly, saving valuable time, resources and costly legal fees.

Coaching to Improve Safety

In addition to allowing fleet managers to identify risky driving behaviors, coaching workflows that accompany video in the most advanced solutions enable managers to work with drivers one-on-one to collaboratively and productively improve safety and operational efficiency. As stated by one driver who was impacted by positive coaching:

“Gaining a better understanding of how the camera works has assisted me in catching small driving habits that have the opportunity for me to improve on them. I have had the opportunity to have coaching sessions done with my current company safety director and safety administrator. During these coaching sessions I have been allowed the time to ask questions, see video footage of what occurred with a full explanation of how to correct this. After a coaching session I took to heart the areas of opportunity for corrective action and applied them.”

Easily consumed, actionable data and analytics deliver valuable insights that are crucial to coaching workflows. With easy-to-use tools, companies can ensure continual improvement among their drivers and increase bottom-line results. Drivers recognize the impact of the video to change their behavior and make them safer:

“I was an aggressive driver and as an aggressive driver, you are putting yourself and your surroundings more at risk. But, I didn’t feel like I was an aggressive driver because I’ve been on the road for 16 years. After experiencing the video safety system, I am more aware of the way I drive.”

“The system has made me more aware of my surroundings. I pay closer attention to stop signs, other drivers and speed limit signs.”

Improving Efficiency

Improving driver behaviors not only enhances safety, but also efficiency, reducing costs within your fleet. As an example, speeding has a huge impact on the bottom-line.

  • Maintenance: Gears, bearings, clutches, suspension and drive trains all wear much faster at higher speeds. Increasing speed from 50 to 60 mph increases maintenance costs by 38 percent. At 70 mph, costs increase by 80 percent.
  • Tires: Sustained high speeds raise tire temperatures above the critical level causing strength and wear properties to deteriorate rapidly. Tire wear will almost double at speeds of 70 mph or greater.
  • Fuel Efficiency: Increasing highway speed from 55 mph to 75 mph can raise fuel consumption as much as 20 percent. Drivers can improve their gas mileage 10 to 15 percent by driving at 55mph rather than 65 mph.

Safety is Personal 

Safety is a choice that every driver makes. Driving decisions reflect individual responsibility. It is always important to make drivers aware of the choices they make, whether consciously or unconsciously, and remind them of the choices they should make. By changing driver behavior and instilling a sense of responsibility to make the good decisions, our roads—and your fleet—will become inherently safer.

Jason Palmer is COO of SmartDrive Systems (San Diego, CA). Jason brings more than 25 years of leadership delivering products to market for fast-growing technology companies such as Qualcomm, Now Software, Epicor, and WebTrends. In his career, he has also worked with many of the leaders in large-scale analytics initiatives including Microsoft, Yahoo, The New York Times and Knight Transportation. He is a member of the NWRA Safety Committee working with many of the leading waste fleets. Jason has been with SmartDrive for more than 10 years, leading the development and delivery of SmartDrive’s market leading video-based safety programs and analytics. For more information, call (866) 447-5650, e-mail or visit


  2. SmartDrive SmartIQ® Beat for Distracted Driving, April 2017:
  4. Video-Based Safety: Facts, Stats and Impact, July 2017: