Randwick City Council has improved driver safety and reduced its expenditure on legal costs by investing in on-board video camera technology from Rear Vision Systems for its waste fleet.
Randwick City Council (RCC) was ahead of the curve when it first brought in on-board cameras for its waste collection fleet. A decade on and it is reaping the benefits of its investment.
Situated six kilometres south east of Sydney’s CBD, the council provides services to an area that encompasses the scenic spots of Coogee, Clovelly and La Perouse. Its vehicles have to negotiate car-lined narrow streets and busy beachside roads.
Providing regular collections to 56,000 homes, RCC’s in-house operations also undertake green waste collections of up to 900 bins each day, while public place litter vehicles service 500 bins. Most of its compactors are engaged not in bin pick-ups, but in clean-up operations such as on-call, illegally dumped rubbish.
“Improving driver and pedestrian safety and defending litigation cases were the primary reasons for putting the cameras on our garbage trucks. The council wanted to be able to confirm accidents with cars or property, while helping drivers do their jobs safely,” says Steve Castle, Business Analyst in RCC’s Waste Management Team.
After reviewing the options available, RCC contracted Rear Vision Systems (RVS) to supply the technology.
“RVS was successful as it had a product that ticked all the boxes for us,” explains Steve.
After quickly experiencing the benefits, RCC progressed with its use of on-board technology. The camera set-ups have gone from rear vision only to include front-facing cameras and, on most trucks, wing cameras on mirrors to allow for vision down the sides.
Updating the technology
Seven years ago, RCC decided to have the cameras connected to digital video recorders (DVRs) that recorded footage to on-board hard disk drives (HDDs), which could then be viewed back at the office.
Although HDD was a cutting-edge solution, when an incident occurred, the hard drive had to be removed to review footage and the date and time reset when it was returned to the vehicle.
So when RCC was about to order a new fleet of trucks three years ago, they asked RVS to demonstrate its new system, which included remote, online access to camera footage. This allows the operations team to view footage from the trucks on their office computers via a live stream. They decided to install eight units to trial.
“Once Randwick realised how valuable the DVRs were for accident evidence, it began implementing the system across their fleet and we began to replace the old HDDs with the new online version,” says Jackie Fredericks, Director at RVS.
Of 40 vehicles in RCC’s waste fleet, 21 are on RVS’s latest software. A further three using the older HDD system are scheduled for upgrade in the near future.
Since 2006, the RVS equipment has been rolled out across RCC’s waste vehicle fleet. Specialty vehicles, such as beach cleaners and green waste side- loaders, have cameras over hoppers to allow the driver to see what items are being deposited into the vehicles.
Two tractors with beach rakes have also been fitted with cameras and DVRs for safety.
“In the summer, party goers stay on the beach all night. They would try to jump on the back of a beach rake while it was working, which was a major safety hazard for the driver,” explains Steve. “Now the tractor camera means the driver is aware of what’s going on behind them and can see anyone who attempts to get on the rake.”
Defending fraudulent claims
RCC is achieving what it set out to do with the technology. When it comes to other waste services providers considering camera technology and software for their fleets, Steve says it has a number of benefits.
The council used to accept compensation claims because it didn’t have the footage to prove a truck wasn’t involved and the damage to the parked car, for example, looked consistent with that of a garbage truck arm impact.
“In the past, if people came up with a date and time for an alleged incident, we used to just pay them out,” says Steve.
Now, in addition to the footage obtained under the RVS system, the software can also confirm whether a council vehicle was operating in a street at the time the damage allegedly occurred.
RCC estimates that it is now able to deny or refer around 60 per cent of the alleged motor vehicle claims received.
“It’s been a big thing for the council,” says Steve. “Although it isn’t cheap to set up initially, these are offset with the benefits of lower litigation costs.”
“In the past six months alone, we have successfully contested six damage claims – to cars and property – saving the council thousands of dollars,” he adds.
The council’s drivers are also big fans of having the technology on their vehicles, as it proves they are operating safely and disproves false claims.
“When the cameras were first installed, our drivers were worried that they were being watched by ‘Big Brother’. When they realised the technology gets them out of trouble, they soon appreciated it,” says Steve.
“Being able to bring the driver into the depot to show them the footage is a great way to positively reinforce the value of this tool to their job,” he adds.
Checking for contamination
The cameras can also be used to monitor what is being collected, such as green waste contamination.
“Drivers can activate an alarm when the contamination is seen in the hopper,” explains Jackie. “The DVR then produces a report to the administrator with the address of the resident, who can then be sent a warning, helping to improve compliance.”
Jackie says that RCC’s experience is consistent with other clients’ experiences of using the technology.
“Often residents blame waste vehicles for damage to parked cars. Now that we can check, 90 per cent of the time the damage was not caused by the truck,” she says. “This definitely saves money.”
RCC has recently updated its software to make the most of the capabilities of the on-board technology. This is testament to the consultative working relationship RVS and the council have, with the client always keen to hear about updates to the equipment.
“Out of all of our customers using it, I’d say Randwick use the system to its full extent,” says Jackie. “For example, it now orders all new trucks with the live viewing DVRs.”
Steve says the secret to getting the most out of the technology is to implement it from the bottom up, working out how it will complement other systems in place.
“Jackie and her team are very knowledgeable. They have had answers to all the queries we’ve had during our use of the equipment and work well across our teams, such as IT and administration,” says Steve.
“They get the job done right first time. It’s very refreshing.”
More details on Rear Vision Systems’ on-board camera equipment is on its website.