“I had cameras in the cabs.  Nobody used them and they were a waste of money.”  Jesse P. Gaddis

With that cautionary statement, in August, 2012 I committed Yellow Cab in Broward to install cameras in 20% of its fleet for the DriveCam test period.   At the time, DriveCam was installing cameras in over 8000 Waste Management vehicles, so the Yellow Cab installation was pushed to December.  In the timeframe from contract signing until the first installation, DriveCam spent time educating Yellow Cab on its system.  Mind you, a complete install was a commitment of close to $500,000 in equipment purchase and a monthly commitment of over $20,000.   Mr. Gaddis’ statement was both enlightening and prophetic – “make it work.”

As stated in my earlier post, DriveCam is a behavior modification system.   The cameras capture 12 seconds of video, both the interior of the vehicle and out its windshield, the vehicle’s speed and location, and sound.  Each 12-second clip is transmitted to DriveCam for evaluation.   Clips which show “risky driving” are placed in a Coaching folder on the DriveCam web interface.

DriveCam cautioned me that we would be surprised at the number of coachable events, even with “just” a 20% install.   Naively, I thought we could coach risky behavior on a part-time basis with management’s involvement.   The DriveCam representative smiled and said that we might need some more commitment from management than I anticipated.   I told him that I appreciated his viewpoint but was sure our drivers were doing well and just needed a little help.

On Wednesday, December 7, 2012 Yellow Cab began its installation of cameras in 110 vehicles.   DriveCam was impressed – our shop finished the job by December 9 and we were ready to go.    Nobody at Yellow Cab was ready for the onslaught that weekend brought.  In a single weekend, our 110 professional drivers amassed over 200 “risky events” that needed coaching.   One driver, Fresnel, was responsible for over 20.   Yellow Cab wasn’t in Kansas any longer – for the first time it was able to see its drivers’ behavior, and it was at times frightening, both from a driving standpoint and a customer service standpoint.

The weekend had drivers speeding, running red lights, tailgating, yelling out the windows at other drivers, and using profanity with passengers.  My “favorite” was the party.  A driver who had 8 young ladies (3 in the front seat, 5 in the back seat) in the car and who were egging him on with each erratic maneuver he could make – taking corners at speed, slamming on brakes, and otherwise having a good time.   To say management was shell-shocked is an understatement.  

On Monday morning I sat down across Mr. Gaddis’ desk to tell him what happened.   Mr. Gaddis smiled, he knew after 50 years in the business what was going on – but wanted me to find out on my own.  I told him about Fresnel.  He asked if Fresnel was still a driver and I said yes.  The purpose of the cameras was to make good drivers out of bad drivers, and if we couldn’t then we would cancel the driver’s contract.

By Monday I knew my “plan” was a joke and I needed to rethink how we were going to make the cameras a success.  I immediately knew I would have to make a commitment in dedicated personnel who would have the sole responsibility of coaching drivers.   I also wanted to make sure the coaches were qualified.   Yellow Cab had been a member of the National Safety Council for over a decade.  My Risk Manager, Julie, reached out and was told that the NSC would send a trainer to our facility to qualify our staff to teach the NSC’s Safe Driving class.

Yellow Cab made the commitment.  It hired a retired police officer to run the coaching program and a second retired police officer to coach to make sure the program was a success.  It brought the NSC trainer in from Atlanta, and a total of nine managers and coaches became qualified to train.   Every morning, Julie and I would watch every video and send emails regarding what we were seeing, in addition to the DriveCam review.   This continues to this day.  Management bought in to the program and was committed to make it a success.  

In the end, Yellow Cab’s in-vehicle camera system was a success.   It resulted in a reduction in losses approaching 45% in the first year.   Management continues to work every day to make sure risky driving is corrected.   At times, complacency becomes an issue, but the DriveCam system is designed to allow continued improvement in driving behavior.  Making the program a success required a financial commitment – one which resulted in a return on investment of over two times.  Most importantly, no matter how much money a company spends on equipment, if management isn’t committed, no in-vehicle camera program will be a success.

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