The Big Question: Cameras on the Driver or Not?

March 14, 2016

Video in transportation has been assumed to be the forward facing and driver-facing camera views as one solution. With all the buzz and hype about video you would think the value propositions and reasons for adding the driver-facing camera combined with the forward camera would be crystal clear. That is not necessarily the case today with competing philosophies, products, and service offerings that in many cases record forward-facing only. Video typically is always recording with critical “events” marked for review or exoneration purposes and subsequently transmitted via cellular or Wi-Fi. For the purposes of this article let’s explore why adding a driver-facing camera in addition to the forward- facing camera is now becoming a major concern.

There is no question that the most popular video camera recording view by far in trucking with the best value and ROI is the forward- facing camera. On the other hand, adding an additional camera that faces and records the driver is an entirely different story. One of the industry’s most important assets are the drivers. They are highly valuable to all fleets and most likely their number one asset. Owners tell them that. They are told that they are professionals, highly skilled experts that are loved, cherished, and integral to the company. That their family life, their health, and well-being are very high or top on the company’s priority list. But on the other hand we’re going to consider telling them that they are going to be on camera for their every move in the cab during working hours? This is a staggering contradiction.

The perception by drivers regardless of what they are told about a camera pointed on them is that they are being recorded ALL the time. A lot about that isn’t sitting right with drivers and a large number of fleet owners. In a recent industry poll it was reported that 90% of drivers said they would not sign on with a carrier with a driver-facing camera. Additionally, with turnover rates staying at around 100% annually* and with the driver shortage crisis about to balloon from 60,000 each year to 180,000 in 2024*, fleet owners are becoming reluctant on the driver-facing camera when 80% of the time an accident involving a class 8 truck is not the truck driver’s fault.

There is little if any evidence that proves reviewing every aspect of a driver’s every move and subsequently coaching them reduces accidents and large payout settlements. Driver-faced video coaching may result temporarily in making them drive more carefully or reduce their speeding. But coaching can also be done similarly by reviewing forward-facing video clips alone with a driver without the invasiveness or perceived invasion of privacy of the camera pointed directly at them. Again, if 8 out of 10 times an accident is not their fault where are the big savings and ROI in coaching with driver video facing video clips?

The REAL savings are in the forward-facing camera alone exonerating the driver, your company, and reducing costly legal payouts. Think about that when you’re considering a camera facing forward AND one pointed at the driver versus the forward facing camera alone. Remember, driver-facing video evidence could and very well may be used against your fleet with everything being discoverable. A top trial lawyer in Atlanta after learning of driver-facing video recordings starting to be used today said he couldn’t wait to start to subpoena any and all videos with all coaching records for his clients suing trucking companies. Can anyone say “massive legal fees”? You may think the driver-facing video will exonerate you. Really? In a jury trial all bets are out the window and every single video ever of that driver and their entire history including all coaching and scoring could be subpoenaed to be produced in court. Also whether we like it or not the appearance of a driver on video, previous coaching needed, patterns of risky driving, or language used could influence a jury by providing too much discoverable information.

Here are some other things you may want to consider asking internally while in the due diligence process for adding the driver-facing camera. One, ask your driver recruiters (not just the safety manager) their thoughts on if their job will be easier or more difficult having to inform potential drivers that they will be having a camera pointed at them in the cab all the time. Two, do a blind survey with a ballot box form for your current drivers and ask them what they think of cameras on them. Three, survey potential drivers in your recruiting process today and discover what percentage would walk out the door if they knew they would be on video every minute in the truck. Bottom line, you can always consider later possibly adding a driver-facing camera for new drivers in training or for those who are the 5% worst drivers. With all the downside of the driver-facing camera, taking advantage of the forward camera alone where virtually all the savings is realized is a no brainer. All drivers like the forward-facing camera for exoneration. And your drivers will see you as their friend, that you are respecting their privacy, their contribution to your company, and believing in them with dignity.

A final thought. Last year I spoke to a room of 150 trucking industry leaders, executives, and owners at a major industry conference on the subject of video technology. I asked them to raise their hands if there was anyone that would like or not mind having a camera on them all day at work. Not one person raised their hand.  

*ATA's Driver Shortage Report 2015 (10.6.15)

About the Author

Mike Nalepka | CEO

Mike Nalepka is the CEO of VideoProtects.com, LLC, a consulting and advocacy company focused on transportation video technologies. His expertise and passion is helping carriers and the industry reduce costs and increase profits leveraging the latest best in class video and camera technologies for everywhere in and around the tractor-trailer. Mike is an “idea guy” constantly looking for the best video technology and practices to:

  • prevent large financial exposure from accident lawsuit settlements and fraudulent claims
  • improve driver safety awareness & driving skills
  • exonerate drivers and carriers
  • find the true video Return on Investment (ROI)
  • address issues beyond liability and safety such as over, short & damage (OS&D) claims, loading/unloading procedures and regulatory compliance, surveillance, road conditions, and more

Mike has consulted and recommend technology solutions for hundreds of trucking companies of all types since 2004. He has been awarded US Patents with several more pending designed around video technologies and process improvement. He was formerly the General Manager for Video Intelligence Solutions and Vice President of Business Development at PeopleNet (a Trimble Company), Vice President of Business Development and Region Sales at TMW Systems (Trimble), Vice President of Fleet Imaging Solutions at DriverTech, and the National Sales Manager at McLeod Software.

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