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For Cannabis Drivers, Dashcams Are Trusted Friends

·4 min read

To most drivers, the installation of dashcams represents an intrusion. And to some extent, that is true. They say the camera sees all, and poor driving behaviors will be exposed.

But for some industries, the cameras are a must, and the drivers have come to realize the benefits the camera provides. The cannabis distribution business is one of those.

"On some level, this is about monitoring our drivers and making sure they are transporting our products safely and not putting others [at risk]," explained Harry Berezin, vice president of legal and compliance for Bloom Farms, a cannabis grower and distributor in California. "But there is the other aspect of being able to adequately protect our drivers from the outside world. I actually think the latter is more important to us than the former. To an extent, this is a dangerous job for our drivers."

Bloom Farms had been using road-facing cameras for about four years, said Greg Horn, California distribution manager and flower procurement specialist, but converted to the Azuga SafetyCam about six or seven months ago. Azuga's dashcams, combined with insurance coverage from QuadScore Insurance Services, are helping companies like Bloom Farms reduce their insurance costs, reduce their risk exposure and keep their drivers safe – especially those in the cannabis industry.

"Because of the federal banking restriction [which prevents most banks from handling funds related to cannabis], having a cannabis business, no matter where you are in the supply chain involves handling a lot of cash," Berezin said. "It's pretty common for a driver to actually receive cash when we make a delivery to a brick-and-mortar dispensary that they then have to bring back to our facility. There's the product part of it, but there is the reality that we are a business that handles a lot of cash."

Horn said the cameras and fleet management system from Azuga – which includes both forward-facing and driver-facing cameras – have offered Bloom additional benefits, such as geofencing capabilities and real-time tracking with street-level imagery. It is also helping keep drivers safer.

"They feel safer in there – one, from the tracking software and two, from the cameras," he said. "If a driver is being followed, I can track them and lead them to the nearest police department."

The Azuga SafetyCam combines multi-sensor HD cameras, artificial intelligence, and computer vision technology to produce a live stream of drivers and alerts to fleet managers regarding potentially dangerous activity, such as hard braking, sharp turns, distracted driving, and rapid acceleration. Facial recognition technology can detect when a driver is distracted or drowsy. Azuga analyzes videos to look for possible distraction events and provides tags to help fleets identify underlying causes of risky events.

So far, Bloom hasn't had to utilize the camera system, but Berezin said the ability to use it for driver safety and to potentially determine what happened should an accident occur is a comfort for the fleet.

The cameras have also provided cost savings on the insurance premiums Bloom pays. QuadScore, which specializes in insuring delivery companies moving cannabis products, requires the use of dashcams in all insured vehicles. The company offers general liability, property, motor truck cargo, and automotive liability insurance. However, because the insurance marketplace relies on the scale to keep costs in line, and the cannabis market is limited at this point, delivery companies can be hit by much higher premiums.

"The insurance marketplace for cannabis operators is limited in capacity and oftentimes operators are paying 2-3x typical auto rates simply because of the industry they're in," said Seth Hartshorn, senior underwriter at QuadScore. "Our dashcam requirement and partnership with Azuga has helped us bridge that gap by saving our clients hundreds of thousands in auto insurance premiums."

QuadScore leverages Azuga's Mobikit solution, which aggregates telematics from other service providers to provide a more robust picture of risk.

"Partnering with QuadScore was an easy decision," said Ananth Rani, CEO of Azuga. "The company is a leader in the cannabis-focused insurance space, and its fleets – like all fleets – can benefit from tools that make drivers safer and protect company property. By providing customers a low-cost, easy-to-use in-vehicle telematics solution, QuadScore can better protect its customers while reducing its own costs."

Berezin said QuadScore was able to package all the insurance coverage Bloom needed into a single policy offering.

"QuadScore was willing to offer us a bundle of those types of insurance packages that provide us significant savings as opposed to buying all of those policies individually," he said, noting that the fleet was comfortable with the camera requirement. "We knew if we worked with Azuga that we could satisfy QuadScore's requirements and get that preferred rate."

While many fleets utilize cameras to exonerate drivers in the case of accidents, Bloom Farms believes the benefits go far beyond for its fleet.

"There are lots of people that are very skeptical about the business we have, and there certainly could be a bias that cannabis companies are operating recklessly, but we don't think of ourselves that way and we are trying to be respectful [and safe] and I think having the cameras [helps with that]."

Click for more Modern Shipper articles by Brian Straight.

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