Deciding “Which dash cam should I buy?” is a question many fleet business owners ask themselves.
There is a world of difference between a consumer dash cam and a commercial camera designed for professional use, and this article explains the important differences between the two.
We describe what you can get in a professional vehicle camera for different budgets, so you can decide which one is right for your business.
There are fundamentally three different types of professional dash cam system you can install in a working vehicle. We exclude consumer dash cams from this review.
Forward-facing cameras capture what goes on in front of your vehicle, showing if a driver handled his vehicle appropriately prior to a front impact.
A dual camera solution (also known as a front-and-rear camera system) also gives you footage of what happens behind the vehicle. This gives evidence of fault if your vehicle is rear-ended, and shows exactly what happened if an impact occurs when the vehicle is reversing.
A multi-channel camera system, or multi-camera solution, consists of a forward and rear facing camera and additional cameras to improve visibility to the sides of HGVs, for example, or in unusually shaped plant machinery vehicles.
These may include excavators, tippers, rollers, cranes and forklifts.
If you are fitting cameras to mobile plant machinery to improve safety on building sites or around factories or warehouses, you will need to consider the shape of the asset and the movements it makes that could endanger colleagues nearby when deciding how many cameras you need and the lens angle they should cover.
To make this decision, you need to weigh up the benefits against the costs to your business. This should be a sensible financial calculation.
Usually, choosing a cheap camera achieves none of the benefits that business users need. This makes it a false economy and essentially a gimmick or a toy for working motor fleets.
Investing in a professional cloud-based camera system, hard-wired to the vehicle and with a remotely accessed live recording system, on the other hand, may be an invaluable investment for certain types of business and fleet.
As a fleet operator or operations director, you will know which is the right choice for your company.
There are five key benefits from investing in a dash cam. We list and explain them below.
Dual solutions or multi-camera systems can keep goods vehicles safer while they are unattended overnight.
They are extremely useful for HGVs that have to make stops on long haul journeys, triggering alerts if someone tries to break into the lorry to steal the contents or stow away.
You can check with certainty where your drivers are and what the vehicle is doing at the time with a dashcam.
With audio options, you can also find out if the driver is using his phone illegally while driving, for example, or distracted in other ways.
This functionality is very useful for vehicles carrying fragile or potentially dangerous loads in which an accident would have grave consequences.
Dash cams are designed to record and transmit footage. The saved video films give you video footage that proves what happened in the event of a crash.
You can pass this footage onto insurers and the police, giving them precise evidence of what happened during the incident.
The benefit of this is it can protect your business against “crash for cash” type false claims, and establish the reality of events in valid claims made by other drivers, pedestrians or property owners. Accidents do happen, with over 157,000 UK drivers injured on the road in 2019 alone — 1,870 of this total number lost their lives.
The overwhelming majority of serious road accidents in cities involve HGVs, which makes vehicle cameras an almost universal necessity for this type of vehicle.
Like many insurance policies, you must weigh up the costs of paying for these cameras against the savings you can make by having them.
Vehicle cameras can also establish liability and the details of each incident. Something that could be vital if you manage a building site or other busy depot where there is a risk of drivers injuring colleagues as they go about their work.
The question you must ask is if your business wants to take any risks when it comes to the legal responsibility of any accidents your plant vehicles and mobile assets are involved in.
The London Direct Vision Standard legislation requires heavy goods vehicles to have a multi-camera installation so there are absolutely no driver blind spots.
Vehicles must have a certificate proving compliance before they enter Greater London. The fines for travelling within the M25 without a permit are heavy.
The law is enforced from 1 March 2021.
Credit: Barksdale Air Force Base
Dashboard cameras offer a range of different features. Some may be ideal for your business and others might be either inessential or unnecessary.
We’ve highlighted the nine key features to look out for when you’re deciding which is the right dash cam for your company.
The quality of the video recording a camera offers may be HD, Full HD, or Quad HD.
Sellers offering very high resolution 4G HD, for example, are over-selling and exaggerating what current technology can do. We have seen footage from these cameras that was heavily pixelated and frankly a load of fuzz.
Your film quality is going to be affected by the weather outside and by other factors, so it should not be your primary concern when evaluating one camera against another.
iCompario tip: Choose a good HD camera standard but don’t make this your number one concern when choosing a professional vehicle camera.
Hard-wired cameras mean you don’t have to rely on your drivers to plug the camera in, remember to turn it on or decide when to turn it off.
This makes them far more reliable and keeps you, the fleet manager, as the person in control at all times.
Cameras hardwired into the ignition are much more secure than consumer cameras that plug into the OBD port. They are hard for thieves to remove and may not even be noticed, as some of them can be as small as a walnut.
iCompario tip: Hard-wired cameras are always the right choice for business vehicles.
In comparison to a consumer dash-cam, you get a much larger memory with a professional vehicle camera.
If you buy a consumer dash-cam, you are likely to be offered an SD card with very limited storage capability. Professional dash-cam suppliers are likely to offer you hardware with three to four times the memory.
The more memory, the more hours of video you can save before the camera starts over-writing with new footage.
Some consumer dash-cams have as little as 64 gigabytes of memory and can store as little as 2 hours of footage before they overwrite.
They usually rely on the driver pressing buttons to save important footage before it is overwritten. This can be a fiddly operation and it is easy to make mistakes and lose the video forever.
iCompario tip: Memory capacity is extremely important in a professional vehicle camera. This is one of the main reasons for the price difference between consumer cameras and professional cameras – check what you get in terms of memory at different price points.
For HGVs, look out for systems that offer a 24-hour recording loop. This means you can access and view footage from the vehicle dash-cam and other cameras around the vehicle at any time, whether the engine is on or off.
This is a popular and useful option for HGV haulage fleets because you might want to check where the vehicle is even during the night while the driver is on a break or stop-over.
If your HGV is carrying a valuable load, being able to record anyone attempting to enter the vehicle or tamper with it in any way may be extremely important.
Cameras of this kind can be installed and coupled with telematics devices that trigger real-time alerts to the fleet manager if a vehicle door is opened. These advanced systems are very popular with overseas hauliers who need to make sure they can avoid theft and stowaways.
For many fleet managers, it’s sufficient to have the camera only come on while the van is being driven.
iCompario tip: You pay extra for a 24-hour recording loop so think carefully whether you actually need it. Parking mode may be enough instead.
Parking mode keeps the vehicle camera recording for ten minutes after the ignition is turned off. This is ideal for multi-stop delivery vehicles which make repeated stops but need continuous recording with no time gaps.
Parking mode is especially useful if you or your drivers sometimes have to park in awkward places for brief amounts of time to make deliveries or pick-ups.
This puts the vehicle at higher risk of an impact while it is stationary and the driver may not even be in it. A camera that’s still recording front and back will show you know exactly who dented the rear of the van!
Vehicle cameras with parking mode are probably less relevant for haulage vehicles, for example, which are more likely to be stopped when they are off the road and securely parked. A 24-hour recording loop will be more useful in this case.
Business standard dash-cams and other types of vehicle cameras can connect to telematics systems and transmit footage to a cloud server. This means the footage is backed up.
They use a multi-SIM card that uses the various mobile phone networks. It pulls whichever is the strongest network available in the vehicle location to guarantee the most reliable signal at all times. So basically, the vehicle camera is like a collection of mobile phones subscribed to every mobile network provider.
When choosing a cloud-based vehicle camera system, the service you get will depend on your telematics or vehicle tracking system as well as the camera itself.
The camera can send footage, but the telematics software decides how much of it to store, what to store, and for how long. Telematics systems also decide whether to alert you when there’s a sudden braking event which might mean there’s been a crash or other accident.
Here are some questions you should be asking:
Audio recording as an option can add information to recorded video in case of incidents.
The main reason some companies use this is to check if their driver uses a mobile phone while on the road. This audio evidence could include audible warnings made by the driver such as sounding the horn, or reversing sensors beeping.
Some cameras can record the interior of the driver’s cab, revealing if they are using a phone while driving and also recording what he is saying.
Some drivers are unaware that their in-vehicle camera is recording them, and we did hear of a driver who was sacked after being recorded criticising his boss.
There are legal restrictions on using recordings that you make of people when they are not aware you are recording them. If you think you may need to use recording for legal evidence in any situation, it is vital that you tell your drivers you are recording audio.
GPS technology in vehicle cameras can show the vehicle location in relation to any video frame.
This can be useful if you need this, although for many companies we advise using a more reliable separate GPS tracker as part of a telematics system. This makes accessing the information easier and gives you more reliable and complete information.
Some cameras can record extremely wide-angle shots — ide angle viewing usually means 140 degrees or more.
This can make a critical difference to telling the whole story in case of an accident or fault claim, however we recommend you ask to see samples of the film that the camera will record.
The reason for this isthey are filming through a curved windscreen and panning such a wide angle, the fishbowl effect may make it difficult to see what is really going on. There’s no point getting a super-wide angle lens if you can’t actually figure out what is happening at the sides of the picture.
There are many great features available with professional vehicle cameras. However, there are some you should be sceptical of. Below, we list the three main features we advise you to beware of.
G-force recording is a classic feature of full telematics systems. The sensor detects when the vehicle has stopped very abruptly, corners sharply or is accelerating at great speed.
Some vehicle cameras have g-force recording built in. They are sold with the promise that the camera activates filming in response to sudden braking or other g-force events, but doesn’t film otherwise. The idea is that the camera saves memory, whilst making sure it captures any possible accidents.
This sounds great, except this type of technology embedded inside a little camera either doesn’t work, or works very poorly.
We recommend you use a separate tracking device as part of your overall telematics system. These come as an integrated system, so they work in perfect synchrony with your vehicle cameras.
They trigger recording – and save the footage and send it as an alert to the fleet manager in response to the relevant in-vehicle monitoring system (IVMS) criteria, which are harsh braking and sudden cornering.
iCompario tip: If you want video footage alerts from vehicles that are triggered by g-force data, invest in a telematics system rather than trying to get it on the cheap embedded in a vehicle camera. It will be far more reliable and sometimes turns out to be cheaper as well.
A vehicle camera that can transmit via Wi-Fi is only useful when you are in Wi-Fi range. This means it is a feature for workplace vehicles that stay close enough to the Wi-Fi. As far as remote access vehicle cameras are concerned, this is not useful for most companies.
The alternative, and vastly preferable, to Wi-Fi connectivity is transmission via a mobile network to a telematics system that stores video footage.
This means you get the functionality no matter where your vehicles are, and they cannot drop out of range. Cloud based dash-cams are more reliable and so is the storage that comes with them.
Live streaming means real time transmission of video from the vehicle camera.
We don’t recommend splashing out on this as it tends to be very pixelated and nothing like the quality you get when you watch the footage you really need when something has actually happened to your vehicle.
It is usually sold as a cool-sounding gimmick. After a couple of months, the novelty of watching your lorries go down the motorway from your computer will have worn off, and as you remember you still have a busy day job you may regret the very costly subscription contract you signed up for.
Much more affordable systems have just a few minutes delay, or let you download footage of specific incidents or send them to you automatically. They are much cheaper and offer all the functionality you will actually need.
We’ve given all the detailed background information you need to decide what the best dash cam is for your business. Below we summarise the key points for you.
We’ve listed the three main types of camera you can buy:
We’ve explained why you should invest in a dash cam:
We’ve highlighted the key features to look out for:
And we’ve covered the features you should be wary of:
All that’s left for you is to decide what camera you want and what features you need, then find a dash cam within your budget that offers everything you need. This is something iCompario’s experts can help you with.
iCompario makes it simple for you to compare dash cam systems, so you can find the right one for your business.
You can choose while you’re deciding which fleet telematic systems you require, or add on cameras as an upgrade to your current system.
All you need to do is select your preferences and requirements, including the number and type of vehicles your company operates. A member of the iCompario team will then review your message, get in touch to talk you through the most appropriate vehicle camera systems for your business.