If you were to ask trucking company executives what keeps them up at night, many would say the safety of their fleet. Safety has always been a top concern for employers across the board, but has become increasingly prevalent with the amount of traffic on the roads and number of incidents involving passenger vehicles and trucks. In an effort to increase trucking safety for their drivers, many employers have implemented fleet safety programs to ensure that their teams have the tools and resources to complete their jobs as successfully and safely as possible. 

One component of these fleet safety programs is the use of technology to help reduce liability in the event of an accident and provide ongoing education for drivers. 

In terms of technology, one of the most widely debated issues are the pros and cons of installing driver-facing cameras. While these cameras provide security in the event of an accident, many drivers argue they take things a bit too far and infringe upon their right to privacy. Many states even have privacy laws in place which prevent the use of driver-facing cameras. With such opposing stances, it can be hard for employers to make a decision about dashboard cameras and whether they are right for their fleet or not.  

What are the Pros of Installing Driver-Facing Cameras? 

Motor vehicle accidents are always devastating, but those involving trucks are especially costly; emotionally, physically, and legally. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the average cost for an accident involving a large truck is $91,000, and as much as $3.6 million, if it involves a fatality.  

Proving liability in circumstances such as these is imperative to avoid costly settlements and discontent amongst drivers. This is where driver-facing cameras and dashboard cameras in general come into play. These cameras record drivers at all time, as well as the road ahead of them, which can provide much needed evidence when an accident occurs. This is essential to proving liability during a case involving an accident involving the truck. According to a study completed by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI), 70 percent of all crashes involving trucks are the fault of the passenger car, whereas 16 percent of the accidents are caused by the truck. Without video evidence, however, it is harder to prove the liability.  

This is the foundation for the argument of people who are pro driver-facing camera. With increased trucking safety, and reduced liability, driver-facing cameras are an asset to any fleet.  

“I don’t think there’s really any question anymore that the benefits of forward-facing cameras far outweigh any perceived downsides. Best case scenario, they exonerate the fleet and its driver in highway-accident litigation. Worst case scenario, they tip the fleet and its insurer off to the need to settle a case early on. That said, I think the jury’s still out on inward facing cameras. Some solutions seem to do a great job of detecting risky driver behavior so that fleets can get ahead of it before it causes bigger problems. But some states’ privacy laws are a roadblock, and getting driver buy-in can be difficult.”   

-Brandon Wiseman, President, Trucksafe Consulting, LLC 

What are the Cons of Installing Driver-Facing Cameras? 

Even though the argument for enhanced safety and liability protection would sway many on the use of driver-facing cameras, many would still argue that the cons of using them still far outweigh the pros.  

Most commonly the arguments against installing driver-facing cameras include: 

Driver Satisfaction/Retention: Truck drivers work hard and most of their life is spent on the road. With that said, many drivers regard their truck as home and live in it while making hauls. The idea of being on a video constantly, deters many drivers from being open to having driver-facing cameras installed in their trucks. This can create retention issues for employers in a market already heavily burdened by driver shortages and high turnover rates.  

Privacy: While many drivers would personally feel that their privacy is being violated using driver-facing cameras, there are also many states and territories which prohibit the use of this type of camera over privacy concerns. For fleets that traverse the country, it could be problematic having these types of cameras installed in their fleet.  

Administrative Overload: Not all arguments against driver-facing cameras come from the state or drivers, however. Many companies already feel stretched thin by labor shortages and the amount of work needed to review dashboard camera footage would only increase that burden on administrative staff members.  

The debate over driver-facing cameras will always be present. Ultimately, companies will need to decide what is best for trucking safety throughout their team before making the choice to install these cameras in their fleet.  

One topic that has become increasingly controversial in the trucking industry is the use of dashboard cameras. Everyone from drivers and carriers to industry experts has an opinion on the use of these cameras and whether they provide any real benefits. For some, the argument is in favor of dashboard cameras because they can increase protection for the driver and company, while reducing liability. Others argue that dashboard cameras infringe on drivers’ privacy and create distrust between drivers and their companies.  

Pros: Liability and Protection 

People who are pro-dashboard camera believe they benefit drivers by adding a level of safety and increased protection from liability during accidents.  

As truck driver Steve commented on our Facebook poll, “Outward facing cameras are great. They can be used to prove fault in accidents.” 

Even though most people do not realize it, the majority of vehicular crashes involving trucks are actually caused by passenger vehicles. 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. While drivers are often not at fault for the crashes, they, as well as the carriers, often end up being held liable for the accident. For trucks with outward facing cameras, they are most easily able to prove their case and liability status based on footage from the incident.  

They provide a constant eye in the case of danger and damage. 

Dashboard cameras are an important option for protecting truck drivers from wrongful allegations which reduces costs and liability for carriers. With such great benefits, many carriers are opting to install dashcams. 

Cons: Privacy and Micromanagement  

While dashboard cameras can improve safety and protection for drivers during accidents, many would argue that they are an invasion of privacy, especially inward facing cameras, as many drivers’ trucks are also their homes.  

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.” 

Most drivers live in their trucks while making hauls, so not only is it their office, but it is also their living room, kitchen, and bedroom. The use of dashcams takes away from drivers’ rights to have privacy and makes their every move available to the carriers, as well as anyone else you could access the camera’s footage. With that said, drivers would have no room to even scratch their nose without someone watching. 

Another argument 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 vast experience making sound 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.” 

For drivers, this can create frustration as someone who has never driven a rig tries to tell them how to do so.  

A Potential Solution  

While proponents and opponents of the argument each make valid points, there is middle ground that can be reached on the topic of dashboard cameras. 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 see extreme resistance.  

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. 

truck platooning

By now, most people in the trucking industry have heard of self-driving trucks and the impact they’ll soon have on the industry. What people may not be aware of is probably the biggest application of self-driving trucks; truck platooning. Many experts view it as a huge step forward for fleets, both in terms of increased fuel efficiency and environmental sustainability. Here’s what to know about truck platooning.  

What is truck platooning?

Truck platooning is when one to two semi-trucks autonomously follow a leader truck at a distance of 50-65 feet while on the highway in order to reduce drag and increase fuel efficiency.  

Truck Platooning relies on a process known as “electronic coupling” where the leader truck communicates electronically to the trucks behind it; telling them to slow down, accelerate, or change lanes as needed. While it’s technically possible for trucks to platoon without technology, it’s highly dangerous (and illegal) for drivers to manually attempt this since the distances between trucks are so small. This is why the process is only able to be done autonomously. 

As of right now, there are two types of platooning; level one and level two. In level one, the trucks have minimal autonomy, with the lead driver driving normally and the follower trucks only braking and accelerating, while the driver keeps an eye on traffic like normal. 

Level two gives more control to the follower trucks, with SAE level 4 being implemented in them. This means that the driver is no longer “driving” at all as long as there’s no inclement weather. The lead truck will still be driven normally though.  

Is Truck Platooning happening now?

Yes, but only for research and testing purposes. For over five years, truck manufacturers and carriers have been investing money and testing the technology on closed highways. 

As of right now, truck platooning is fully legal in only a few states, and legal on a test basis in a few others. It’ll take more time, probably a few years at the least, before we see truck platooning fully legalized in all 50 states.  

What are the benefits of truck platooning?

According to the Federal Highway Administration, 

Truck platooning allows trucks to follow each other closely, thereby reducing air drag and improving fuel economy. Platooning also has the potential to increase vehicle capacity on our highways, particularly along freight corridors. 

Truck platooning can save both the leader and follower trucks huge amounts on fuel each year, which is why the technology is getting so much attention. It’s been shown that platooning can save the leader truck 4.5% in fuel costs and a whopping 10% for the follower trucks.  

This increased fuel efficiency is also more sustainable and therefore better for our environment. These benefits can also carry over to electric trucks as well, with the reduced air drag leading to an increased battery life. 

Are there any downsides to truck platooning?

Long platoon lines could possibly frustrate drivers trying to merge or exit the highway, leading them to perform unsafe maneuvers like weaving in and out of the platoon to get to where they’re going.  

Another issue that could see fleets steering away from truck platooning for a while is liability. Since the technology is so new, it’s still a legal gray area who’s at fault if an accident were to occur between two platooned trucks. This could lead to insurance companies denying liability in the case of an accident.  

Like with all new vehicle-related technologies, there’s an inherent level of danger in the early stages. Research and testing will get rid of 99.9% of problems, but there’s always a chance that something could go wrong while on the road. One semi-truck involved in an accident is bad, but when you’re talking about two or three trucks following that closely behind one another, things can get much worse.  

That’s not to say that truck platooning is dangerous. On the contrary, truck platooning and other related technologies are actually estimated to make highways much safer than they are right now.  

While these issues are important and should be considered, they’re not out of the ordinary for any new technology. With more time, research, and testing, these issues will start to become less and less relevant.  

While giving any level of control to a machine is understandably an unnerving concept for drivers and fleet managers, truck platooning, like autonomous trucking is showing itself to be the future of the industry.

While we won’t see the technology become an industry standard for many years, it’s important for fleets to familiarize themselves with the concept for when the time does come.  

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