How to Choose a Vehicle Camera System for Your Fleet

July 20, 2020

Get started with Samsara

Check our prices

Key Takeaways

Vehicle camera systems are proven to increase driver safety, reduce accidents, and lower costs for commercial fleets. In this buying guide, learn what to look for in a vehicle camera system—including features like night vision, HD video, and real-time distracted driving detection.

Get started with Samsara

Check our prices

What is a vehicle camera system?

A vehicle camera system is a combination of hardware and software that commercial fleets use to improve driver safety and minimize risk. A vehicle camera system can consist of just one camera or multiple cameras installed inside or outside each vehicle—including dashboard cameras, backup cameras, or even interior cameras for monitoring cargo holds. These cameras are used in tandem with connected software, like an online dashboard, to review incident footage, coach drivers, and track safety improvements over time.

Why are fleets adopting vehicle camera systems?

With rising accident rates, increased in-cab distractions, and skyrocketing legal settlements, 36% of fleet managers say that safety is their number one priority. As a result, many fleets are adopting vehicle camera systems because they are proven to increase safety and reduce associated costs. In fact, a recent Frost & Sullivan report found that vehicle camera systems are a new safety “norm” for commercial fleets. The report specifies that vehicle camera systems have been found to:

  • Lower driver distraction by 80%

  • Reduce speeding by 65% 

  • Reduce collisions by 60%

  • Reduce claims by 25% 

  • Increase seat belt usage by 70%

What are the different types of vehicle camera systems?

If you Google "vehicle camera system," you're likely to find car camera systems meant for consumers. Often found on websites like Amazon, some of the most popular car video systems include Sony, Thinkware, and Garmin. While these in-car cameras can be helpful for people looking to install an inexpensive camera in their personal vehicle, they’re not meant for commercial 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.

Vehicle camera systems for commercial fleets are more robust—both in terms of the features they offer and the value they can provide. Cameras that are purpose-built for commercial fleets, like Samsara AI Dash Cams, connect to a telematics device that provides WiFi and can detect safety-related events like harsh braking, speeding, and collisions. That way, these cameras 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.

There are many different types of vehicle camera systems for commercial fleets. Below is an overview of the different types of cameras and their benefits.

Forward-facing dash cameras

Designed to capture collisions, forward-facing dash cameras are mounted on your windshield and have one lens that faces the road ahead. 

Dual-facing dash cameras

Dual-facing dash cameras are also mounted on your windshield. But in addition to a camera that faces the road ahead, these dash cameras also have a second lens that faces inward to capture in-cab activity. Because dual-facing cameras record driver behavior (like distracted driving), they can be a helpful way to coach drivers. You can also use dual-facing dash cameras to exonerate drivers from complicated incidents, since in-cab footage can be used in the case of an accident to show that a driver was attentive and driving responsibly. Dual-facing dash cameras are ideal for fleets looking to create a robust, video-based driver safety program.

Exterior cameras

Exterior cameras can be mounted outside your vehicle to capture a 360° view of the surroundings. Many fleets choose to deploy exterior cameras after experiencing one too many sideswiping incidents, since video footage from exterior cameras can be extremely helpful for exonerating drivers from sideswiping damage caused by other vehicles.

Backup cameras

Backup cameras are a specific type of exterior camera. Backup cameras (often called rearview cameras) are mounted on the outside rear of your vehicle and have a rear-facing camera that records the road behind you. Paired with an in-cab monitor, they can be particularly helpful for seeing potential objects or dangers when driving in reverse. Nearly 50% of two-vehicle crashes are rear-end collisions, causing over 1,700 deaths and 500,000 injuries  per year. Backup cameras can be helpful for providing footage in case of a fender bender or rear-end accident.

Interior cameras

Interior cameras can be mounted in various places inside your vehicle or trailer to keep passengers safe or boost cargo security. Passenger transit fleets often deploy interior cameras to ensure passengers are safely seated, whereas tractor-trailer fleets use them to reduce cargo theft by continuously monitoring in-trailer activity. Some less-than-truckload carriers also deploy interior cameras to gain real-time visibility into how full their trailers are.

What are the most important features of a vehicle camera system?

When it comes to selecting a vehicle camera system for your fleet, there are a lot of different options to choose from. Here are a few of the most important features to consider:

HD video quality

Crisp video quality is critical when reviewing video footage. Look for a dash cam with a wide-angle lens (to ensure you have a good field of view) and high dynamic range (HDR) that offers 1080p full HD video. Look for 1080p or full HD if you want video recordings that are clear enough to read license plates and detect whether drivers’ eyes are open or closed. 

Built-in artificial intelligence

The best vehicle camera systems now offer built-in artificial intelligence (AI). AI-enabled dash cameras use edge computing to analyze the road and driver behavior in real time. This makes it possible to proactively detect risky behavior, like distracted driving, tailgating, and more. Optional in-can alerts can warn drivers of an impending collision, helping prevent accidents before they happen.

Internet connectivity

To ensure they don’t run out of space while continuously recording footage, most vehicle camera systems use loop recording; they overwrite older video files to continue recording new files. If your camera isn’t internet-connected, you will have to manually retrieve footage from the vehicle before it’s overwritten. For a more reliable and convenient option, consider an internet-connected camera. Internet-connected cameras can automatically upload safety-related event footage to the cloud, giving you real-time access to footage for coaching or exoneration. This convenient, remote access to footage can be helpful for investigating false claims or calls from the public.

Automatic harsh event detection

Make sure to choose a vehicle camera system that connects to a telematics device with a built-in accelerometer and g-sensor (for motion detection) and GPS tracking. This way, the system can detect safety-related events—like harsh braking, harsh turning, and collisions—and automatically upload footage from before and after the incident for your team to view.

In-cab voice coaching

The best dash cameras have a built-in audio speaker that can play in-cab messages for harsh events, speeding, and unbuckled seat belts—alerting drivers to potentially unsafe behavior in real time. Immediate feedback from in-cab voice coaching is proven to improve driver behavior and reduce preventable accidents.

Low-light or night vision

If your drivers often operate at night, choosing a vehicle camera system with low-light or night vision capabilities is extremely important. Look for a camera with high dynamic range (HDR) and infrared LED to ensure nighttime footage is still crisp and clear.

Plug-and-play installation

Deploying a vehicle camera system in dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of vehicles is no easy feat—which is why choosing hardware that’s easy to install is so important. For example, the best dash cameras include an adhesive strip that easily attaches to your windshield, and they get their power supply from a connected telematics device.

Streamlined coaching tools

When it comes to choosing a vehicle camera system, software is just as important as hardware. Look for dash cam software that helps you make sense of your raw data and footage. The best vehicle camera systems offer online tools that aggregate coachable events, make it easy to coach drivers with suggested scripts, and track safety trends and improvements over time.

Mobile app for drivers and fleet managers

In addition to an online dashboard you can access via your computer, look for a vehicle camera system that offers accompanying smartphone apps. With a mobile app (for both Android cell phones or iPhones), safety managers can access footage while on the go. In case of a not-at-fault accident or false claim, this makes it easy to send footage to drivers or police on the scene.



Are vehicle camera systems worth the investment?

One of the biggest objections to investing in a vehicle camera system is the cost. Although the initial cost of a vehicle camera system might seem expensive, they 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, vehicle camera systems reduced safety-related events by 52%. 

Below are four reasons why a vehicle camera system is worth the investment. You can learn more in our complete dash camera ROI guide.

1. Avoid false claims

Vehicle camera systems provide unbiased video evidence in case of an accident. This makes it easy to exonerate drivers from not-at-fault accidents, bypass lengthy claims processes, and eliminate unnecessary payouts. For example, Mitchell Companies experienced a 34% decrease in auto claims and saved an estimated $150,000 to $200,000 by exonerating drivers with footage from Samsara AI Dash Cams.

2. Decrease insurance costs

Because vehicle camera systems are proven to increase safety and mitigate risk, many insurance providers offer premium discounts, credits, or subsidies for installing a vehicle camera system and sharing safe driving data. For example, Simco Logistics received a 15% reduction in their insurance premium after installing Samsara AI Dash Cams and demonstrating decreased liability with fewer harsh events and accidents over time.

3. Reduce vehicle wear and tear

Harsh braking wears out brake pads and causes unnecessary stress on vehicles. Advanced dash cameras can play in-cab audio messages when harsh braking, distracted driving, tailgating, or other risky behaviors are detected, helping to discourage harsh driving and reduce physical damage and maintenance costs. For example, Empress Ambulance Services used Samsara AI Dash Cams and driver coaching tools to save $15,000 per vehicle due to decreased out-of-service time.

4. Minimize labor costs

It might be surprising, but vehicle camera systems can reduce labor costs in a few different ways. With data-driven driver safety scores and video footage, your back office team can coach drivers more efficiently. Plus, Samsara AI 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. For example, Dohrn Transfer Company saw a 10% increase in driver retention, ultimately avoiding $8,000 in recruitment and replacement costs per retained driver.



What is the best vehicle camera system for fleets?

Samsara’s combination of reliable hardware and user-friendly software makes it an ideal vehicle camera system for fleets of all sizes. In fact, in a recent survey of more than 500 Samsara customers, 90% said Samsara has helped improve safety across their fleet. In addition, more than 50% of our dash cam customers have used Samsara footage to exonerate drivers in the past year—saving $5,000 to $25,000 on average, with some customers saving over $100,000 a year. 

Samsara hardware highlights

Samsara AI Dash Cams analyze the road and driver behavior in real time. By sending alerts to drivers and actionable insights to managers, our intelligent cameras are proven to improve driver safety and lower fleet costs. Here are a few hardware features of Samsara’s vehicle camera system:

  • Different configurations: Front-facing or dual-facing dash camera options

  • Built-in artificial intelligence: Detect distracted driving, tailgating, and more in real time

  • Optional in-cab alerts: Built-in audio speaker helps warn drivers and prevent accidents in real time

  • High quality footage: Full HD 1080p resolution (720p for in-cab camera) for crisp video quality

  • Best-in-class camera lens: Ultra wide-angle lens for excellent field of view

  • Night vision: Infrared LED for in-cab recording at night

  • Image optimization: HDR (high dynamic range) to optimize for bright and low-light conditions

  • Internet connectivity: Cellular connection makes it possible to automatically upload footage to the cloud

  • Connected telematics: Provides additional sensor data, including g-force and real-time GPS tracking

  • On-demand video retrieval: Request non-incident footage for past driving time



Samsara software highlights

Samsara’s online dashboard and driver coaching tools make it easy to review incident footage, mitigate risk, and track improvements over time. Samsara’s software is built to help your team create a successful fleet safety program. Here are a few software features of Samsara’s vehicle camera system:

  • Auto-uploaded footage: Dash camera footage is automatically uploaded to the cloud and available for review in minutes

  • Streamlined incident review: See footage and review incidents as they occur, plus assign events to specific safety managers for coaching

  • Connected telematics data: Video recordings are annotated with g-sensor and GPS tracking data

  • Coaching workflows: Driver coaching tools, including step-by-step coaching workflows and recommended scripts, enable consistent driver feedback

  • Safety scores: Configurable driver safety scores based on harsh events, speeding data, and more

  • Driver App: Drivers can view their own safety score ranking to foster healthy competition

  • Reporting tools: Trend graphs track safety improvements over time

  • Admin alerts: Customizable SMS and/or email alerts related to safety

  • Customizable settings: Including harsh event sensitivity for different vehicle types

  • Admin app: Review incidents on the go and communicate with drivers via two-way messaging

  • Customizable incident detection: Choose whether or not to track certain events

Want to learn more about the different types of vehicle camera systems and their benefits? Check out our complete guide to dash cameras, or read more about how a vehicle camera system delivers ROI. If you’re curious to see how Samsara’s hardware and software solutions have helped other fleets achieve their safety goals, explore our five-step guide to building an effective fleet safety program.

Get a free trial Samsara’s vehicle camera system

See for yourself why Samsara is trusted by more than 15,000 fleets across the United States. Request a free trial to get started today—we’ll ship you our vehicle camera system to try free for 30 days, along with access to our online dashboard and expert support team.



Contents

Stay in touch

Sign up to learn more about Samsara.