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Does Your Fleet Need AI-Powered Driver-Facing Cameras?

Listen as we explore the rapid adoption of AI-powered driver-facing cameras and proximity sensors for commercial equipment safety.

Episode 277: Join us on a technological journey through the world of commercial equipment safety with our guest, Joseph Schechter, Vice President of Safe Fleet. What if your commercial vehicle could not only protect you in case of an accident but also provide crucial evidence that could exonerate you? Discover the industry’s rapid adoption of camera technology and proximity sensors, leading to a safer and more secure driving environment.

We’re popping the hood on the latest advancements in truck safety technology. Learn about the benefits of onboard recording with MobileMule AI, the upsides of a complete vehicle view, and how these innovative systems are helping operators enhance their driving skills. Listen in as Joseph shares groundbreaking insights into how Safe Fleet’s devices are helping prevent accidents and facilitating smooth fleet operations.

Finally, we talk about Air Vue, Safe Fleet’s revolutionary product tailored for the tractor-trailer segment. Learn about the unique connection between the transmitter and the in-cab monitor, which provides an interference-free solution. Hear about the rise of side cameras on Class 8 trucks and the integration of Safe Fleet with partners to send camera footage to the cloud. Listen in on an intriguing discussion on how Safe Fleet is transforming public safety, protecting drivers, and driving down operational costs for fleets.

Joseph Schechter is Vice President of Rear View Safety, a division of Safe Fleet. Listen as we explore the rapid adoption of AI-powered driver-facing cameras and proximity sensors for commercial equipment safety.


Sponsors of this Episode 

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Transcript of Episode

Jamie Irvine:

You are listening to The Heavy Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine, and this is the place where we have conversations that empower heavy-duty people.

We’ve talked on the show many times about how commercial equipment is rapidly changing with new technology. A lot of times we’re talking about this from the perspective of how it impacts both service and parts.

Today we’re going to talk about the connection between safety and what we do as a fleet or a repair shop to keep commercial equipment on the road longer. But we’re also going to talk about it from the perspective obviously of safety for the driver and by extension for the company that operates that equipment.

To help me with this conversation, I am really excited to have Joe, who’s the Vice President of Safe Fleet and he’s going to talk to us about some of their products, but before that, he’s going to talk to us about some trends. So looking forward to talking to Joe. Joe, welcome to The Heavy Duty Parts Report. So glad to have you here.

Joseph Schechter:

Thank you, Jamie, and real pleasure to be here and excited to share industry trends and what’s going on in the commercial space. So really what we’re seeing in terms of safety, ever since FMVSS 111 passed, which pretty much mandated that all vehicles below 10,000 pounds had to install backup cameras.

Specifically, we saw this really rapid adoption from larger vehicles and only because it makes sense. It’s like, hey, if these smaller vehicles are mandated to have a camera, although maybe you’re not mandated, but you don’t have a camera or other proximity sensor or safety technology and an accident happens, it really makes the commercial company really look very liable. And safety managers and fleet managers and owners are realizing this.

And also because the tech really became very affordable, we’re really seeing a much faster adoption to either camera technology, which would mean you put a backup camera or a side camera that reveals your blind spots as you’re making certain maneuvers, as in backing up or switching lanes or adding proximity sensors, which give you that audible alert when you’re backing up or other changes. So we’re really happy as we see this.

Jamie Irvine:

So, Joe, let me ask you something. I just want to be clear I understand. So there was the change in the regulation and that was for what we would call light duty vehicles. That’s why all the newer vehicles have backup cameras from when you get ’em new and that’s what changed, but that doesn’t exist for the heavy duty like class eight trucks and trailers? Is that, do I have that correct?

Joseph Schechter:

That is correct. Okay. The chassis builders, if it’s less than 10,000 GVW, they’ll, they’ll provide a camera, which is really what the trend, which really propelled the trend that hey, your newer vans and your light duty vehicles have the camera equipment, but the larger class 5, 6, 7, 8, those still didn’t, and this is where fleet managers are saying, wait a second, we should really look into this.

Jamie Irvine:

Yeah, it’s like the much bigger vehicles that are harder to back up and have less visibility isn’t mandated so I guess we should take that upon ourselves. Yeah. Okay. Now I understand what’s going on with that trend.

I think some people when they think of cameras, especially if it’s in cab recording, they think about, well, is that just the fleets trying to micromanage the drivers but doesn’t having those cameras not only for the obvious safety implications for operation, but also if something does go wrong, doesn’t that in some way offer a bit of protection to the driver as well?

Joseph Schechter:

It really does, and this is the stigma of cameras. Is it big brother watching or are we really there to protect you? The facts are, I mean, everyone knows this, right, if you see an accident on the corner of an intersection, you go there, you see a big large vehicle and you see a little car, you automatically make the assumption it was the commercial vehicle, the large vehicle that caused the accident.

So video evidence, so these onboard dash cameras or just onboard recording with multiple cameras. At first it seems a little bit scary for the operator like the fleet manager really wants to keep tabs on who he’s talking to, but really that’s not really the case.

This is really to exonerate the driver because most commercial vehicle operators are actually good at what they do, and this really helps them and protects them, and this is why we’re seeing this trend. Again, the technology became more affordable, but more importantly, fleets are seeing, hey, this could really help us.

Jamie Irvine:

And it’s so sad when these accidents do occur. I think of two occasions. So in Canada, in Manitoba, so in the middle of the country just above the Midwest a couple years ago, there was a very tragic accident where a semi-truck hit a busload of hockey players. So they were young hockey players, I believe they were high school age and there was a number of fatalities and a number of severe injuries.

You know can imagine this one hockey player who I saw who was being interviewed, now he’s in a wheelchair for the rest of his life, total tragedy, and there was liability on the part of the commercial driver. It was their fault. I remember following that story and investigators were just going over that truck and trailer and they were recording like everything wrong with that truck.

So even if it had nothing to do with the accident, they were still making sure they documented anything that would’ve put the vehicle out of service or would’ve been a problem. Fast forward to this year, we’ve had another tragic accident in Manitoba. In a different town, a bus of elderly people were struck and there was a number of fatalities.

Yet in that accident, it was shown through evidence that was collected, that it was actually the driver of the bus with the elderly people that was at fault. They pulled out in front of the truck. And so you have these two tragic accidents, very similar almost in the same locations, and yet two different outcomes. How would have onboard video played a role in all of that?

Joseph Schechter:

So with the latter story, the onboard recording proved the innocence of the commercial operator, and that is crucial. I mean, that’s a great story of how if they didn’t have their onboard video, what would the outcome be? What would be for the operator? What would be for that fleet?

Now when in the commercial trucking industry, it’s all about brand recognition when they have an accident, I mean that those things, they stay with customers for a long time, and again, the ability to exonerate yourself is crucial more than ever, especially with social media.

I mean, these stories travel so fast and you need this evidence and we’re seeing more and more where in the past customers were reluctant to install such technology and now they are and they’re all coming back thanking us because they see the savings. But more importantly, they protect their brand, they protect the driver.

When a commercial operator has an accident or a tragic accident you just described, I mean their career is practically over and it’s so hurtful and they could have been innocent the whole time, but they just didn’t have the ability to prove it and we’re happy we’re seeing this trend,

Jamie Irvine:

And I don’t have any evidence for this, but I feel like this makes sense. So if I’m an investigator and I don’t have video evidence to find out what happened and isn’t a lot of good eyewitness testimony, you’re naturally going to look at the truck and the trailer and you’re going to look for reasons to put blame on that piece of equipment and that driver as opposed to if I have the video evidence.

Obviously they still have protocols they have to follow, but maybe it isn’t done with such, they’re not going to rip apart that truck and trailer and document every single thing because the video evidence is clear, hey, look, this vehicle wasn’t have any out of service things.

The video evidence is clear case closed. So even that, I say that’s just my feeling on it, but it seems to make sense to me that that would also be a protection. So okay, let’s move to some of these devices that help the driver navigate more.

What is the connection between your devices and the trends you’re seeing on your side with safety and then also all of this new technology that’s on trucks for ADAS and navigation and things like that. Is there a correlation? Are you seeing that coming from the OEMs more or is it still largely an aftermarket kind of afterthought that fleets are adding this technology after the fact?

Joseph Schechter:

Loaded question. Let’s start in the cab and then we’ll go outside the vehicle itself. So there’s two things here. We spoke about onboard recording, right, recording, this helps tell the story, which is really important. Also, what’s great about on onboard recording, especially with all the much, all the companies that offer on onboard recording also include coaching.

So say a driver now creates a lot of alerts, maybe they’re accelerating too much, harsh braking, swerving, all different things, all those little points of data get captured, get sent to the cloud, say thank God the operator comes back to the office and they incident free, but they have a report now from the fleet manager. It says, by the way, you’re driving could be improved, and here are all the reasons why.

This information given to the operator in a proper way, the operator will take it because sometimes they don’t even know if they’re not driving correctly and this helps them improve to prevent the accident.

So that’s the onboard recording. So on top of exonerating them from God forbid, a tragic accident, this also helps them become better. And the fact is the new operators entering the ecosystem that we all know, there’s a major lack of truck drivers. They’re taking everybody and anybody and the new truckers today, they’re used to technology.

They were brought up with a car that had all this technology. So the more technology you throw at them, the better they drive, but also they kind of need it, right? They rely on it. That’s the onboard camera. Now, when we get to the surround view of the vehicle, now how do I make my vehicle drive better?

How do I become a better driver? So two things are happening. Number one, within ADAS, you’re having a lot of the OEMs installed this. So the vehicles coming with ADAS already installed, which would help from forward collision and obviously sideswipes and what have you.

When we get to the larger vehicles that don’t have this, vehicles that don’t have this technology installed OEM, that’s where companies like ourselves seem come into play. So although we have two, we also supply the OEMs and a lot of our technology, but for the aftermarket, this is where we see a really strong uptrend in this adoption.

So best example, so tractor trailer. So their number one action is actually sideswipes. So today we have cameras that could be installed over the fender or on the mirrors. They’re tied to the turn signals of the vehicle.

So if the tractor trailer now is making a lane change, they flip their turn signal on and all of a sudden whether it’s day, night, you see a beautiful clear picture on your screen that your mirrors can’t capture. This grabs your entire blind spot. So now that makes your maneuver more safe.

You could also add blind spot sensor system to that. So as you’re making that change, not only do you see what’s going on, but you could have that audible alert or a little LED that indicates, hey, there’s a vehicle there.

The same thing you have in some of your newer cars. So we have all this technology now for the commercial segment, which makes driving so much better, which prevents the accident, and then you don’t even need the recording to prove anything because now you’re driving better. So we’re really excited for that type of technology. And the same applies to reversing a tractor trailer or any commercial vehicle.

So if your vehicle didn’t come with a backup camera, we have these aftermarket cameras you put on, also proximity sensors. Now you’re backing up your vehicle. You can see what’s going on. You can hear what’s going on and have those alerts that will activate if there’s a pedestrian or an object behind your vehicle.

Jamie Irvine:

We’re going to take a quick break here from our sponsors. We’ll be right back.

Commercial Break:

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Jamie Irvine:

We’re back from our break. Before the break, Joe, you and I have been talking about the need for technology on commercial trucks in-cab recording, also sensors and video cameras for operating the equipment safely. I’ve got a whole bunch of questions about the products that you sell.

So let’s start with in-cab recording. You mentioned that that device can actually help drivers, it can help fleets train their drivers because you can look at what’s been going on, you can look at the way that they’ve been driving. Obviously you can see if there was an accident, what actually happened.

So let’s talk about installation of those devices into the commercial trucks. Because you said something that caught my attention, you said that this stuff all goes to the cloud. So how does the installation work? How does it hook up to the truck and then how does that get back to fleet and the people who are monitoring to walk me through all of that?

Joseph Schechter:

Okay, sure. So for example, our mobile AI, which is our latest onboard dash cam dashboard camera. The installation itself takes about 45 minutes or less. We’re pretty much, or we’re hard wiring the vehicle to basically power ground. So every time the vehicle is turned on, your onboard camera is recording, all that information gets sent to the cloud.

We use 4G and 5G cellular connectivity. So we have a sim card inside the dashboard camera that makes sure you’re connected. What’s also nice about this is we jump, so as your vehicle is driving, you know could be jumping between towers and different networks. Specifically with us, we have full roaming.

So no matter who, where you’re driving, we’ll make sure you’re always connected. All those data points that I mentioned. So things that are happening inside the cab itself. So for example, our mobile AI uses AI to detect if the operator is actually behaving correctly.

So for example, let’s say an operator starts using his phone, which is not allowed, right? As soon as he picks up the phone, our AI software recognizes that position of the hand in the phone position, it sends an alert to the fleet manager who gets notified, hey, this driver is using his phone. That happens instantaneous, which is really cool. Now the fleet manager gets that alert.

He could either send a message to the driver over the radio or call them and say, get off your phone. Or again, this goes into that driving score of that specific operator and then at the end of their shift or whenever they come back, that helps coach the operator, hey, you should not have done this same thing for seatbelt use or smoking in cab. Our AI picks up all these things and it sends it to the cloud and scores the driver.

Jamie Irvine:

You mentioned that because it’s got roaming, it’ll jump from tower to tower. Does it also have a hard drive to record? So let’s say I’m in a rural area and I’m in between a cell coverage area that maybe it’s only a couple miles. Is it going to record back to a hard drive and then as soon as it gets connectivity again, upload that to the cloud?

Joseph Schechter:

Exactly. So the mobile AI does two things. Number one, it’s an onboard dashboard camera. So we have a 256 gigabyte hard drive that records continuously. So no matter if you’re in a rural area, you still have all that footage and what it does is it saves all those little alerts and then as soon as you get into an area with coverage, it will send it to the cloud.

So you’re never going to not have data that you need, but more importantly, to your point, if you’re in an area of no coverage, you still have all that data saved onto the SD card inside the mobile MAI. What really differentiates us is two things from our competition. Number one is the AI part. So this is where we actually partnered with a company out of Israel that’s been doing AI for about 15 years. So their accuracy of data is second to none.

At the end of the day, when you’re scoring drivers, you have to make sure you’re doing it accurately because you’re not manually doing this, right? You’re letting the system do it for you. So you know, want to make sure he’s using a cell phone, you want to make sure that he or she did not put on their seatbelt. So these are things that the accuracy of the AI becomes very important when you, you have driver scoring. Another thing we did was a lot of unions didn’t like this big brother watching.

So we have now what’s called a privacy mode. So it’s hard to describe, but we have good videos that really talk, show it. We have a feature, three features, actually three options. We have the full option, which is full recording. Then we have a second option, which is redaction and blurring. So we actually, we record the person, but you don’t really see who it is.

And then the third feature is total blackout. All we’re picking up is the biometrics of the individual behind the wheel. So if I pick up my phone in my hand, all I’m seeing is my biometric. You don’t see a physical person, which is, it’s hard to describe, but when you see it, it makes sense. This opened the door for us for many of those unions that were really anti recording.

So we’re excited to have brought this to market and this, we launched this in March and we have, we’ve getting just tremendous feedback and a lot bunch of pilots now going with some of these fleets that we’re always anti recording and we, what’s interesting is the fleet managers wanted this because they knew they could exonerate the driver, but there was the operators that just said, hey, I don’t want this. So we we’re going to get over this hump of making them comfortable and then we’ll see larger adaptation to the marketplace.

Jamie Irvine:

One application of this technology that I think helps the service side of the equation. I know from someone who sold parts for a very long time, the role the driver plays in premature failure of specific parts.

So I can also see not only are you training them on how to be a better driver, but you’re training them on how to use the equipment in such a way that for example, we’re not shock loading the differential, the transmission, we’re not prematurely wearing out brakes, things like that, that you could actually use this information and say, look, if you can do it this way or do it that way, you’re going to make the vehicle last longer.

You’re going to have less breakdowns and downtime and this would have an impact on parts. Let’s move on from the in-cab to all of these other things that we talked about, a rear camera for backing up, the sensors, things of that nature.

So when you’re installing this product on a trailer, what are the considerations that fleets have to think about before they go and make the decision to install this? And then how does that equipment, if it’s on a trailer, how does it connect to different trucks as obviously many trucks will pull the same trailer over a period of maybe a month?

Joseph Schechter:

Okay, so we launched a product called Air View. We also launched this at the beginning of the year. This is really the answer of the biggest pain point for the tractor trailer segment was, okay, I know I want a backup camera, but it is such a pain to run a cable from the tractor to the trailer and we’re interchanging all the time and it becomes very, very complicated.

The Air View that we launched checked off a bunch of boxes. Number one, we have a very unique way of our connection between the transmitter of the trailer and to the Inca monitor. It’s a patent pending solution of how we actually make that pairing process.

Number two was even some of the wireless technology that existed there was interference. It didn’t work everywhere. If you came into a yard and you had, let’s say 50 trailers and 50 tractors all pairing up the same time, there was maybe a chance of you peering up the wrong trailer to the wrong cab.

And then number three, which was what pain point for the fleet operators themselves and a lot of this wireless technology, after you actually made the connection between the tractor and the trailer and you hooked up your cables, you had to manually go and push like a pairing button to make the pairing process between the wireless camera and the monitor. Our view product checked off all these boxes.

Number one, no interference. We could go up to 300 feet, whether it’s a tandem or triple trailer, you’re going to have that full connection.

Number two, our pairing overpower process. So what we’re doing is when the tractor connects to the trailer, the seven-way plug is connected. We’re actually pairing over that line, so you can never get the wrong trailer.

Number three, when that pairing process, when you connect that seven-way cable, the pairing is done so there’s no pushing buttons.

So this really, this solution, this wireless solution now enabled fleet operators and fleet managers to say, wait, we can do this. This really does check off all the boxes.

And most important, because it’s wireless, all I’m doing now is connecting a monitor to my power ground and my reverse trigger inside my dashboard, which takes maybe under an hour and then I’m installing my transmitter and my camera, which could be another hour or a little bit longer. But now I can install a full backup camera system on a tractor trailer for two or so hours and it just makes sense.

That’s what our Air View product is really going to do to change the market and the adoption today within backup camera technology for tractor to trailer market is almost zero. This is going to really propel it to start moving forward and we’re going to see big numbers.

Jamie Irvine:

Yeah, that’s exciting.

Joseph Schechter:

And that’s on the backup camera. Now I mentioned a little earlier for side cameras on the tractor themselves. So there we’re seeing a nice trend upwards the last two, three years. We’re seeing a lot of side cameras for that lane changing that sideswipes that I mentioned.

Jamie Irvine:

That like a lot of times that’s in the mirrors. They have a little camera down in the bottom. Is that where it is on the class eight or they actually mounting it somewhere else on the truck?

Joseph Schechter:

So, on the class eights are mounting it on the mirrors or above the fender. So above the fender side wheels, that’s where they’re putting the camera more mirrors than fenders because it just makes more sense and it’s wider out, so you just get a better view. We’re seeing that connect to a monitor inside the cab. What we’re also seeing is a lot of companies have telematics already on board, whether it’s a Geotab or whatever it is, they want all that information that side cameras being sent to the cloud as well.

So we at Safe Fleet, we integrate with a lot of these partners and we’re able to use, whether they have a hub or whatever, whether they’re using our hub, we’re able to take all that information, send it to the cloud, to their cloud, and they’re able to access not only the telematics of the vehicle but also the camera footage themselves, which is really cool. So people like these single sign-ons to see everything.

Jamie Irvine:

Yeah, that’s fantastic. And again, with the tractor trailer combo and having all of these devices to enable the drivers to be more effective, I mean that that’s going to affect damage to the trailers as well. So whether you’re hitting something or like you say if it’s in lane departure, things like that, anytime that you can reduce impact to the vehicles, that’s straight to the bottom line. So a small upfront investment with a big upside.

Joseph Schechter:

Yeah, we see the ROI on our equipment. There’s a return within nine months on average, which is amazing, and we urge, when we speak to fleet managers, we just spell it out for them, here’s the cost of the hardware, here’s the installation cost, and then look at the savings.

Jamie Irvine:

And is installation able to be handled by the technicians who are already working on the equipment, or does it require a team from safely to come out and install it?

Joseph Schechter:

So everything we do is a do it yourselfer. So it’s pretty simple technology. I described it earlier, it’s power ground and some trigger wires to your turn signals or your reverse signal. That is the extent of our basic hardware. Look, no one knows the truck better than their own mechanics. So we always speak to customers, hey, you have own mechanics on staff and you have time to handle the installation for sure, do it yourself.

Where safely comes into play, we have probably one of the largest arms, installation arms in the country. We’re able to go mobile and go anywhere and we give white glove service. So we take it, we come to the customer, one stop shop, here’s a product, here’s the installation, and we’ll get it done and we’ll get it done right.

Jamie Irvine:

That’s fantastic. So I like to look for things that create what I call a triple win. So here we have increased public safety, which saves lives. We have protection of the driver, which is so important, and we have technology that’s going to lower total cost of operation for fleets. I think my friend, you have created a triple win and that’s why we were so excited to have you on the show today.

If people want to learn more about this, they can go to safe fleet.net and links will be in the show notes. Also, if you’re listening on the audio and you want to see all of this stuff we’ve been talking about, go over to YouTube or go to our website and watch the video version and you’ll be able to visually see what’s been described.

Joe, thank you so much for taking some time today to come on The Heavy Duty Parts Report. It was great to talk to you about safety and the trends in the industry. Hope to have you back on the show sometime soon. Thanks for coming on the show.

Joseph Schechter:

Thank you, Jamie. It was fun.

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