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In-cab video protecting drivers and fleets from frivolous lawsuits

Jan. 21, 2020
A major crash left a passenger paralyzed and the police report blamed the truck driver. But his vehicle had recently been equipped with cameras. The video helped the driver keep his job and kept his fleet out of the courtroom.

Editor's note: This is the fifth part of a Fleet Owner series on how cameras and video are changing fleets and drivers as a new decade dawns. Read Part 1Part 2Part 3 and Part 4.

The incident that really proved the value of cameras on and inside its trucks happened shortly after Atlas Trucking & Logistics started equipping its company trucks and owner-operators’ trucks.

“We had just moved a 74-year-old owner-operator into a company truck that had all the systems in there. He was going through Illinois and had a major crash that left a 43-year-old a quadriplegic,” said Jeff Bronson, senior director of transportation for Atlas, which has more than 100 drivers. “And if you look at all the information on paper, you would say, ‘This guy is toast. He screwed up.’ But when you looked at the camera data, this could easily be a training video released nationwide. This guy did everything right. Everything.”

Marc Scibilia, safety and maintenance director at Atlas, said he got an e-mail from the dispatcher within minutes of the crash, and the video of the incident was already on the SmartDrive portal when he logged in.

“I was able to review it and say to him, ‘This is no minor accident. This one’s bad,’ ” Scibilia recalled. 

Bronson said that “when we pulled it up, we knew who to contact and the severity.” Atlas was quickly in contact with its corporate attorney and insurance agent, which both had access to the video right away. 

Without that evidence, Bronson said the company would have “fired the driver immediately, and we’d probably be facing a $40 million lawsuit that we would have lost. See, we’d still be exposed because in the state of Illinois, if you’re found 1% guilty, you’re on the hook for up to 26% of the damages.”

Thanks to the video, Atlas was able to prove the crash wasn’t the driver’s fault — despite the police report saying otherwise. 

The biggest change that fleet video technology has brought to the industry is the reduction of frivolous lawsuits. 

“As soon as they see we’ve got a camera, and we provide the video, it goes away,” Ronnie Holland, director of safety for TCW, said of potential litigation. “You can’t accuse somebody of something that video shows is completely different. You can’t try to convince a jury of something that the video shows didn’t happen. It tells the truth. It’s an unbiased witness.”   

This is the fifth part of a Fleet Owner series on how cameras and video are changing fleets and drivers as a new decade dawns. Read Part 1Part 2Part 3 and Part 4.

About the Author

Josh Fisher | Editor-in-Chief

Editor-in-Chief Josh Fisher has been with FleetOwner since 2017, covering everything from modern fleet management to operational efficiency, artificial intelligence, autonomous trucking, regulations, and emerging transportation technology. He is based in Maryland. 

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