Why Are Trucking Companies Putting Cameras in Trucks?

Cameras in Trucks

Truck drivers bristle when they learn fleets are installing driver-facing cameras. Visions of Big Brother spying and invasion of privacy leap into their minds.

However, more and more companies are using them to reduce accidents and prevent nuclear jury verdicts. These companies have a lot to gain from cameras.

1. Safety

Standard dash cams capture high-quality video footage to document what happens in front of a trucker while driving. They help reduce liability and can deter reckless driving behavior by making drivers aware that they are being recorded.

Trucking companies have more at stake than just their driver’s safety when they roll out a camera system in the cab, however. With a driver shortage threatening the industry, it doesn’t take much to turn a driver off from their company, especially if they feel that their privacy is invaded. Driver-facing cameras are a major point of contention with long-haul truckers. They view this technology as an invasion of privacy, particularly during their downtime when they use the cab to sleep and rest. Although the footage is constantly recording over itself, deleting it as it goes along, truckers still feel that their employer is watching them even when they are not driving.

In addition, the truckers with driver-facing cameras installed often feel that they are being used to discipline them. They argue that if the cameras catch a small infraction like a yawn or finger twitch, it is easy for plaintiff attorneys to manipulate the footage and convince the jury that the trucker is at fault.

In a recent survey of 2,100 truck drivers by ATRI, drivers with driver-facing cameras rated them very low regarding overall approval. They gave them lower marks for their ability to positively impact litigation, and they were most hesitant about plaintiff attorneys having access to the footage. In order to improve acceptance, the ATRI report suggests that fleets should establish clear agreements with drivers about who will have access and under what circumstances.

2. Liability

Many trucking companies have installed cameras that both look at the road and the driver. The cab cameras continuously record over the old footage and only save 10 seconds before and after an incident (like hard braking).

These systems have become popular for their ability to provide an unbiased account of truck accidents, especially when they show that a vehicle was hit from the side or front. They can also help trucking companies fight nuclear verdicts against their drivers, as they can demonstrate that a wreck was not caused by a driver’s actions.

However, these camera systems are not without controversy. First, many drivers are concerned that their employers will use the footage to unfairly discipline them. Not every yawn or foot tapping indicates dangerous driving and disciplinary action won’t address the root cause of the problem (inefficient systems, poor pay). Additionally, driver-facing cameras feel like an invasion of privacy to long-haul truckers who use their trucks as homes.

Secondly, some trucking companies aren’t willing to invest the amount of money that it takes to install and maintain these systems. The turnover rate in the industry is incredibly high, and many companies find it more cost-effective to pay truckers to be safe rather than risk paying huge settlements for unsafe driving. This is an especially important consideration for companies that rely on contractors or at-will employees rather than union workers.

3. Compliance

Trucking companies putting cameras in trucks are often faced with questions about privacy, legal accountability, and the ethics of recording drivers without their consent. Many jurisdictions have laws that protect people from being recorded without their knowledge or consent, and trucking companies that use camera technology may run the risk of violating these laws if they are not careful. Typically, trucking companies that use driver-facing cameras have policies in place to ensure that the cameras do not record during non-working hours, as this helps to maintain a sense of privacy for drivers and respect their rights. These policies should be reviewed and updated regularly to ensure that they are effective and in line with current privacy laws.

Some drivers object to being constantly recorded by the cameras in their truck cabs, believing that it is an invasion of their personal space. This is especially true for OTR drivers, who spend long periods of time in their trucks, which also serve as their homes. Some trucking companies, like BR Williams of Oxford, Alabama, have offered their drivers incentives to allow these cameras in their cabs.

Cameras can help trucking companies comply with regulations and avoid costly litigation. The footage from these cameras can help them prove that their drivers were not engaged in unsafe behavior that contributed to an accident, such as lane departures, improper following distances, or speeding. It can also provide valuable training and coaching opportunities for truckers, helping them to improve their driving skills and follow industry best practices. Some fleets have even found that requiring the use of these cameras can attract and retain drivers, as it shows that the company cares about the safety of its employees.

4. Security

Many truck drivers are wary of cameras because they feel that their privacy is being violated. They are concerned that their company is always spying on them, even when the truck is parked. However, most camera systems only save data when they are triggered by a hard braking or lane departure and then transmit only a 10-second segment of footage before and after the incident to a fleet monitoring provider. Trucking companies do not have the resources to pour over hours of video footage from every truck in the fleet.

Law enforcement also uses cameras to record the events leading up to, during, and after an accident to assign a cause. This helps reduce the time it takes for an investigation and ensures that all relevant elements are considered by a jury when deciding on a verdict. This is another reason why some trucking companies install onboard cameras for their trucks.

Some of the best trucking companies use cameras to monitor driver fatigue, as it is a major factor in accidents on the road. This technology helps cut down on drowsy driving and decreases the money trucking companies have to pay in settlements for crash-related lawsuits.

Ultimately, trucking company cameras aim to make the roads safer for everyone. By decreasing unsafe behavior such as speeding, distracted driving, and fatigue, these cameras will help reduce the number of truck accidents and injuries each year on America’s highways. By educating drivers on how the cameras will benefit them and making it clear to them that the camera’s purpose is safety-related, fleets can improve their drivers’ acceptance of the technology.

5. Efficiency

Trucking companies want to increase efficiency by having data about driver behavior and reducing time spent on accidents or other incidents. Cameras are one way to get that data in a more reliable and accurate manner than relying on faulty memory or conflicting stories. Cameras that record everything that happens before, during, and after an incident can help recognize the degree of fault and speed up sorting things out, saving time and money for fleets.

However, the fact that some drivers think their employers are spying on them makes some truckers hesitant to accept cameras in their trucks. The internet is rife with unverified stories of trucking companies spying on their drivers even when the truck is parked, and this type of technology makes some drivers feel micro-managed and vulnerable. Trucking companies are concerned that if these concerns discourage more people from becoming truck drivers, the industry could face an even worse shortage of workers in years to come.

In spite of the controversy, most trucking companies that utilize cameras in their trucks assure drivers that they are not violating privacy laws by using them. These camera systems usually record old footage continuously until they are activated by an incident such as hard braking or driver fatigue. Then they save the video footage of 10 seconds before and after the triggering event, and trucking companies can view it and take action if necessary. Cameras can also help reduce drowsiness among drivers and the resulting crashes, cutting down on costs that trucking companies have to pay out in injury settlements. This is another reason why trucking companies continue to push for the use of cameras in their trucks.