Mere inches of a near miss: Quick evasive action saves truck from sure disaster

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The video above comes from one of the SmartDrive 360 four-camera platform units in around 80 of the Connecticut-based 250-truck Bozzuto’s fleet. Says Tom Halpin, transportation safety manager at Bozzuto’s: “In the words of the driver,” one of Bozzuto’s most senior, “‘I don’t know if [the motorist] fell asleep or was distracted.’ It was mere inches in a near miss,” which you can see in the side view in the right frame.

As the motorist begins to enter the Bozzuto driver’s lane from the right, the trucker takes the necessary evasive action into the left lane briefly. The motorist “literally missed our truck’s drive tandems by an inch or two,” Halpin says. “Our driver did a good job staying out of that.” In the immediate aftermath, “our driver was fearful the motorist was going to get tagged by oncoming traffic” on busy I-91 in Connecticut, where this occurred, Halpin adds.

The video has been played “in front of our entire driving fleet,” Halpin says, one among others that Bozzuto’s has pulled out for driver-commendation purposes. “A lot of companies are quick to discipline” with video systems, “but not to recognize safe driving. In our meetings, we don’t focus on the bad too much. The drivers know who’s been coached” as a result of incidents captured on video. “We talk about the good things in bigger meetings.”

Drivers recognized thusly not only get to “take a bow” but also “get a little bonus in the form of a gift card.”

The history of the SmartDrive 360 four-camera platform Halpin traces in part to driver recommendation. After the grocery-distribution operation’s drivers had gotten accustomed to the two-camera (forward- and driver-facing) system still in most of the fleet’s trucks as Bozzuto’s transitions to 360, many drivers noted “it’d be great if we had cameras down both sides for drivers hitting trailer tires.”

Halpin presented the idea to SmartDrive, and “next thing you know we were doing the beta testing for the 360 platform.”

Halpin credits utilization of the SmartDrive system with a dramatic reduction in Bozzuto’s Unsafe Driving percentile ranking in the federal Compliance, Safety, Accountability program’s Safety Measurement System. We’re “down to just 2 percent,” he said this summer, “at one point down to 1 percent,” or just about the lowest you can go for a score in the Unsafe Driving category.

Preventable-accident rates have fallen as well, and with recognition for expert handling of near-misses and various exonerations after accidents, drivers have come around to the benefits of the system. “We’re living in the world of surveillance whether you like it or not,” says Halpin. “It’s here, and we all have to accept it in one way or another.” Many Bozzuto’s drivers, “90 percent of them,” Halpin adds, have done just that. They “won’t leave the yard unless their system’s working.”

From the company management side, “anything we can do to reduce preventable accidents benefits us on the insurance side,” he says. After an accident — the most common being a merging accident, he adds — “oftentimes, I have the other insurance company saying our driver is at fault. ‘I have a video,’ I say, and they want to know how much to pay us. This is one more tool to cover drivers’ backs out there. It’s a dangerous world on the highways – anything you can do to help your driver, your company and the general public is great.”

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