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Safety, Savings, and Insights: Innovations in Internal Camera Monitoring Systems

Don’t wait for an emergency or any other reason to wish you had a camera system in your fleet’s school buses, because like Cher, you can’t turn back time. Rather, the benefits of internal cameras in school buses are numerous and once installed, you’ll likely wish you had them sooner. Just ask the folks at a South Carolina school that upgraded its own system after a hijacking incident.

Benefits of In-Cab Cameras

School districts don’t just benefit from having video evidence in an emergency, though. Safety and protection of students and the driver, proof of fault, driver coaching opportunities, and stop-arm violation detection are other reasons a good monitoring system can come in handy.

Chad Anderson, territory manager at REI, says, “The additional information from camera systems really helps paint a picture of what happened and allows the school to easily prove or disprove any allegations made against them and their drivers.”

Richie Howard, AngelTrax president and CEO, adds that it also provides much-needed peace of mind, allowing administrators and drivers to focus on doing their job effectively and efficiently.

It can also improve student behavior on the bus, says Jean Souliere, CEO and founder at BusPatrol. “Students know that their behavior is being monitored by the school district, even when they are not in the bus driver’s direct line of vision.”

Expanded benefits include:

  • Prove fault or liability on event details to protect against false accusations.
  • Monitor student behavior to report bullying, misconduct, and proof of being on the bus.
  • Capture driver behavior and monitor fatigue, seat belt usage, or distracted driving, and allow for driver coaching — or rewards for good driving.
  • Give administrators and emergency responders real-time access to live video inside the bus to form an action plan based on what is happening.
  • Reconstruct accidents.
  • Conduct contact tracing.
  • Save money in litigation, lawsuits, or insurance premiums.

Addressing Driver Resistance

Some school bus drivers may be hesitant to embrace a video system inside their bus due to concerns of being disciplined or monitored. But many drivers who have an already installed system have seen the benefits first-hand. Some even say it’s made them a safer driver and they don’t want to drive without it.

To convince drivers, provide transparency and remind them of the larger benefits, including what’s in it for them. To build buy-in from the start, host 1:1 meetings to explain how the system works, answer questions, and collect feedback. Have the drivers test run a bus with the system already in place — and watch the footage — or talk to other drivers who use it to learn about their experiences.

“Position cameras as a wingman, not a watchdog,” Netradyne recommends. “Fleet drivers are not at fault in 80% of collisions, and video cameras provide that proof.”

Once the system is installed, communicate successes with the technology and acknowledge drivers demonstrating good or improved driving.

“This is not about penalizing or punishing, it is about recognition and rewarding those drivers that go the extra mile (pun intended),” Matt Eckert, director of school bus product sales at Rosco Vision, says.

“Envy serves as a powerful tool,” Adam Kahn, president of Netradyne, adds. “When a driver gets recognized, the rest of the community tends to emulate that driver. Praise is viral and powerful.”

If the pushback is coming from a union and interior recording is not allowed, John Fontana, senior program manager of videomatics for Rosco Vision, says that recording can be turned off or a lens cover offered to comply with rules.

Some additional features to consider in your next camera system include:

  • Vendor installation, training, and ongoing support
  • Equipment life span
  • Video quality, shutter speed, frame rate, etc.
  • Tamper resistance
  • Auto-start recording
  • GPS availability
  • Digital noise reduction
  • Installation and equipment requirements
  • How and where the data is stored, and cloud capabilities
  • Number of camera views/inputs
  • Analytics, trending, safety scoring features
  • Integration with other onboard systems like telematics
  • Driver Monitoring System (DMS) capabilities
  • Real-time tracking and live video views
  • Ease of maintenance and updates of previous hardware and software generations

“Every school system needs cameras covering the interior and exterior of each bus,” Howard reminds. “One of the most important benefits to look for is a provider who prioritizes customer service in every step of the process. And as with any equipment on the bus, the camera system needs to be checked regularly for tampering and proper functioning.”

“Another area of growing importance is software, data, and cloud security,” Chris Akiyama, vice president, school bus, for Safe Fleet, says. “Due diligence on country of manufacture, software development, intellectual property ownership, cloud, and software security measures should be a focus. Involve your IT team in the evaluation.”

“Ask a lot of questions,” advises Ron Deming, territory manager at REI. “Be very specific on what you are looking to accomplish with your camera system. Make sure you speak to a minimum of three vendors. Then with information in hand, make sure to speak with your peers in the state to see how they like their systems and how they have been useful to them. Hardware is important but make sure to find out about customer service support as well, which is just as important.”

Robert Scott, SVP at 247Security, also cautions against the use of subcontractors. “If you use a formal RFP process, beware of low price, low value, as all systems are definitely not created equal,” he says.

Cost is always a factor when making a decision, and Souliere shares that BusPatrol follows a unique model: It is violator funded. “[This] means that communities can access advanced safety technology such as cloud-connected safety cameras at zero cost,” he says. “The entire BusPatrol school bus safety program, including installation and maintenance, is funded uniquely and exclusively from violation revenue generated from illegal school bus passes. The drivers that put children at risk pay for the technology that protects them.”

Getting Started & Available Solutions

If your district is ready to make the next step of installing a new — or maybe your first — internal camera system, it’s important to pick the right solution for your needs.

Many experts suggest a phased approach. “We recommend starting with a formal video policy," Akiyama says. “The policy should cover who can access video, for what purpose, and how long you keep video as evidence. A pilot project can help you evaluate performance and ease of use in your specific environment.”

To ensure your system lasts, REI recommends reformatting the hard drive, doing a system check annually, and occasionally cleaning the hardware, especially the camera lenses.

Executives from Rosco Vision said that many times, cameras have captured collisions and incidents where the driver was not at fault but was being blamed. Rosco’s small-sized system also uses AI to capture distracted driving behaviors.

Rosco offers several recording options: a single camera (forward facing), dual camera (forward and in-cab facing), and multi-camera (forward, in-cab, interior, exterior). Cameras include local data storage (SD or micro-SD cards) as well as cloud storage on its RoscoLive Fleet Management Platform. The company’s AI-powered cameras can detect distracted driving behaviors such as drowsiness, phone use, yawning, etc., as well as dangerous driving behaviors including, speeding, harsh braking, and aggressive acceleration. AI technology combined with the fleet management platform allows managers to have visibility into the efficiency and safety of their entire fleet. All windshield-mounted recorders fit in the palm of one’s hand and range from $400 to $1,000+, depending on features and number of cameras needed.


Article from School Bus Fleet.