The DriveCam Difference
The United States Marine Corp (USMC) holds safety and efficiency among its highest values. That’s why the USMC’s Southwest Region Fleet Transportation (SWRFT) Non-Tactical Vehicles Department at Camp Pendleton chose to deploy a telematics and video–based safety program in its fleet more than ten years ago.
The SWRFT department, which provides infrastructure support for USMC installations in the Southwest, operates a vast fleet of vans, sedans, pick-up trucks, medium-duty and heavy-duty trucks, off-road vehicles, and more. These vehicles are used to run dumps, clean out sewers and ditches, and provide emergency services among other duties.
“We have nearly 2,500 vehicles, and several times that amount in drivers,” said SWRFT Regional Fleet Manager, Gary Funk. “We have 1,800 vans and pick-up trucks alone, and three-quarters of them are driven by young marines.”
Keeping track of a fleet this size and monitoring the driving behaviors of thousands of drivers is a challenging undertaking to say the least.
“We cover 12 million miles per year and have had no casualties,” said Funk. “A big reason for this is vehicle telematics and the data we receive from the event-recording devices. We are able to capture evidence of risky driving, which commanding officers then use to help correct drivers’ behavior. This prevents accidents and saves lives.”
“Telematics is an integral part in managing our fleet,” said James Vincent, telematics program manager and contracting officer representative for the USMC SWRFT, who is tasked with identifying the program’s effectiveness and finding new ways to take it to the next level.
“The program, which combines telematics and video-based safety technology, provides the data we need to ensure fleet accountability, streamline processes, and drive maximum results,” Vincent said.
Why USMC Needed Telematics
“USMC had a clear need for telematics,” Funk remembers. “We had road masters who were trying to find out how government vehicles are being used, and looking for misuse and abuse. However, handwritten reports didn’t do what we needed, and we were spending a lot of money and manpower driving around in vehicles trying to track everything.”
Moreover, telematics combined with video-based safety technology was needed to increase fleet and driver safety. The USMC loses marines every year due to tactical vehicle collisions. “Commanders are very concerned about safety,” said Funk. “They certainly don’t want to write a letter to parents explaining that their child has been killed. So it’s safety first.”
Telematics and Safety Program Protects USMC in Multiple Ways
By far, one of the greatest benefits provided by telematics and video-based safety technology is the ability to know the truth of what happens in a vehicle. “As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words,” said Funk. “The video-based safety program’s in-cab event recording shows us exactly what’s going on in our vehicles so we can take action to make our fleet safer.”
Combatting Risky Driving Behaviors
USMC immediately discovered some major driver safety issues including speeding in the range of eighty to ninety miles per hour, along with risky driving maneuvers and misuse of vehicles.
“Our vehicles go out into training areas, down semi-dirt roads that are washed out,” Funk explained. “We’ve found numerous incidents where marines were driving unsafe, acting like cowboys. There were even some rollovers from taking the vehicles down roads with steep inclines too fast.”
With the telematics and video-based safety program, speeding violations have dropped significantly—35 to 40% in the past two years alone. “There’s no telling how many lives this has saved and the amount of cost savings this has resulted in by lowering accident claims,” said Vincent.
USMC has also lowered misuse and collision costs as people are now driving more safely. “Marines are considered heroes, and the last thing they want to do is put a black mark on their record after being a hero,” said Funk. “They know that any risky driving behavior will be caught on video.”
Knowing the Truth Protects Against Fraudulent Claims and Safeguards Fleet
The evidence captured by the event recorders has also exonerated drivers and protected the USMC from frivolous lawsuits and insurance fraud. “People out there are trying to cut off our vans on purpose, as they figure that Uncle Sam has deep pockets,” said Funk. “The program definitely helps prevent fraud, because it proves what did and did not occur.”
In one case, Camp Pendleton marines who were driving in a government vehicle through the California desert were almost cut off by another vehicle, and had to take evasive action that included sideswiping a motor home. The motor home rolled over, and the elderly couple inside was severely injured. The event recorder captured evidence that proved the collision wasn’t the marines’ fault.
“The data exposes the good, the bad and the ugly,” said Vincent. “Leadership appreciates this, because no commanding officer or director wants the ugly happening under his watch.” In addition, the in-cab devices also capture the true causes behind mystery damage. “And if a vehicle asset is ever unaccounted for, it can be located in minutes so we can take action to make our fleet safer.”
Telematics: An Indispensable Tool in Emergencies
Telematics also helps USMC with disaster preparedness. SWRFT’s MP vehicles, fire trucks, and ambulances are all equipped with event recorders and a Microsoft SharePoint that provide a live, continuous feed of what’s happening in an emergency.
“We can see where our emergency response vehicles are at all times, so that in the case of earthquakes, wildfires, floods, and other emergencies, they can be deployed faster by the people in our commanding operations center,” said Funk. Vincent adds, “Knowing where vehicles are located helps us cut response time drastically.”
The Power of Telematics in Fleet Greening
Because USMC was mandated to reduce fossil fuels, a key use of SWRFT’s use of the program is capturing and tracking greenhouse emissions and fossil fuel usage as part of their ongoing energy campaign. Overall, it has helped SWRFT to reduce fuel usage, carbon emissions, and idle time by as much as 60%.
It’s also helped them to make productivity improvements, and establish more efficient business practices including an idling policy. “Telematics has played a key role in greening our fleet and achieving much greater efficiency,” said Vincent.
The program has cut an immeasurable amount of man-hours for USMC. Whereas before they had to log trip histories on paper, now it’s done electronically and automatically. A recent study was conducted to look at vehicle trip history to gain insight into whether the Southwest region could replace gas-powered vehicles with dedicated electric vehicles within the region.
“Without telematics it would have been very difficult to harvest this data, and it would have meant investing hundreds of man hours to enter paper trip tickets,” Vincent said. “Additionally, with telematics we are cutting maintenance costs."
“Before telematics, we were going through tires quickly on MP vehicles, only putting 5,000 miles on a set of tires as well as on brake pads. After telematics, our tire and brake pad life went up to 25,000 miles. The big savings came through adjusting driver behavior and making them less likely to speed, and less likely to accelerate sharply, thereby reducing their need for heavy braking.”
Procedural Best Practices Ensure Program Success
“Telematics is revolutionizing the way in which the Marine Corps manages their vehicles and the marines and civilians who drive them, and in monitoring where and how they drive them,” said Vincent.
In fact, the technology is so effective that Executive Order 16963 was issued from the secretary of the navy to mandate the use of telematics as a central part of operations for the federal government. With this mandate, departments throughout the military are now required to establish telematics programs in the near future.
According to Funk, any department can succeed with a telematics and video-based safety program by establishing and sticking with procedural best practices that leverage the technology. Following are examples of best practices that have worked well for USMC SWRFT:
Select a dedicated program manager. “As other Department of Defense agencies have witnessed, it is vital to select a quality program manager to oversee a telematics program,” said Vincent. “This individual is responsible for gaining the internal support needed to succeed, and for driving results including a strong return on investment.”
Establish a process for addressing risky driving behaviors. “When the program shows that an individual is speeding or performing risky maneuvers in our vehicles, we send a letter addressed from Camp Pendleton’s commanding general to the individual’s commanding officer letting them know about the unsafe behavior so they can take action as needed. The individual is sent to the base magistrate where they deduct points and remove driving privileges,” Funk explained.
“This is how we were able to reduce speeding by 35–40% in the last two years—by consistently sending the units speeding violation letters and backup data to support each event.” Vincent agrees: “Monitoring the drivers and sending letters out, day after day to commanding officers as events occur, is working.”
Make good use of the rich data provided. The technology combines capabilities for vehicle tracking, recording trip history, posting speeding violations, monitoring idle time and vehicle utilization, geofencing, and more.
“This level of data reporting provides the insights needed to make smart decisions throughout our fleet, as well as to track our progress over time,” said Vincent. “For example, each unit can receive a grade to show how they are doing, and where communications improvements need to happen. We can do this kind of drill-down reporting on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual basis if we like.”
Partner closely with your technology vendor. Lytx managed services works closely with USMC SWFRT in managing the DriveCam safety program, and provides a structure for managing its fleet based on data analytics. “We wouldn’t be able to do this without them,” said Funk. “Lytx managed services has been an invaluable partner to us.”
Reward good driving behavior. “Our program identifies all of our stellar drivers with an award program that shows that we value great employees,” said Vincent.
Moving Forward, Safer and More Efficiently
USMC Camp Pendleton’s SWRFT Non-Tactical Vehicles Department has experienced great success with vehicle telematics and video-based safety technology. The team continues to share this success with other areas of the military, and establish and model best practices for implementing the in-cab event recorders, fleet tracking capabilities, and data analytics technology. That’s why SWFRT committed to equip nearly 1,700 vehicles with the DriveCam program technology.
“We have gained a tremendous advantage in working with the telematics and video-based safety technology,” said Funk. “It has placed us on a fast track to understanding our fleet, to best utilizing its resources, and to making it safer. It helps us to save costs, and most importantly, to save lives.”