Dashboard cameras are becoming an important and controversial evolving issue in the trucking industry. Drivers, carriers, regulators, and industry experts all have an opinion on them. Some say that dashboard cameras are important tools to improve protection and liability. Others insist that dashboard cameras are an invasion of a driver’s privacy and show a lack of respect for their judgment.
Pros: Liability and protection
Many people are in favor of dashboard cameras because of safety and liability issues.
As truck driver Steve commented on our Facebook poll, “Outward facing cameras are great. They can be used to prove fault in accidents.”
Whether or not people realize it, the truth is that passenger vehicles are responsible for the majority of truck crashes. Two independent studies by The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), found that cars are at fault from 71-91% of the time in fatal crashes with trucks. Even though the data suggests that truckers shouldn’t be liable for the crashes, it’s often the drivers or the carriers that end up paying the bill or taking the responsibility. Dashboard cameras facing outwards can easily show a record of the incident in detail, including who was at fault for a crash or accident.
They provide a constant eye in the case of danger and damage.
Dashcams can help protect truck drivers from any wrongful allegation with proof that they did nothing wrong. With the high cost of insurance and damage, it’s no wonder more drivers are carriers are electing to install dashcams, at least the forward-facing ones!
Cons: Privacy and micromanagement
On the other hand, many people are against dashboard cameras for privacy reasons, especially if they are facing inward.
As truck driver GS Bass told us, “I feel the cab is my personal space, private, my domicile while working. I know companies can dip into any inward camera and observe.” Similarly, another driver, Eric, observed, “This is my home when it’s not moving.”
It’s important to remember that truck drivers use their cab as a home away from home. It’s not just their office, but their dining room, living room, and bedroom. How would others feel if Big Brother was snooping in their personal space? Truck drivers are understandably concerned that this video footage is available to carriers and other unknown entities out there, without having any say in the matter!
Another reason to be against dashboard cameras is micromanagement of a driver’s decisions. Let’s say you have a trucker who has been a great driver for over 10 years and has deep experience with making the best driving decisions. Dashboard cameras allow the carrier to scrutinize and judge every decision a driver makes, without understanding its nuances and consequences.
Steve told us, “They make driving less safe because we now drive for the camera. If a traffic light turns yellow and you have to brake even minutely hard, it causes the camera to go off. We then get called in and coached on hard brakes. This coaching gets put in your record and you accumulate points for it. If someone pulls out in front of you, and you hit the brakes too hard, points. If you’re listening to the radio too loud when the camera comes on, or taking a drink of coffee, or looking out your side windows (like checking your mirrors), points.”
Understandably, drivers don’t want to be coached on the details of driving by someone who has never driven a rig!
A potential solution
While there is significant debate over the merits of dashboard cameras, there may be room for compromise and middle ground. Many truck drivers would be amenable to forward-facing cameras if they don’t have to deal with the inward cameras. The benefits of forward-facing cameras are undeniable to both truckers and carriers. If carriers take this too far with inward facing cameras, they will face resistance because of privacy concerns.
Another consideration is how much flexibility and freedom carriers choose to give individual drivers. If a carrier decides to institute a dashboard camera policy without consulting with their drivers, they will likely not be happy about it. Even if a good decision is forced upon people, we are likely to resist it.
On the other hand, if a carrier allows drivers to make their own decisions about dashboard cameras, and just educate them on the pros and cons, they may find that more and more drivers will voluntarily elect to install cameras.