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The Last Word

Where camera angles matter: inside a truck cab

By Joey Berkemeyer

To film or not to film? Everyone has an opinion. At Wayne Smith Trucking, we have front-facing cameras in everything we own. The front facing cameras can get you out of a jam or tell you when it’s best to settle a lawsuit before it gets worse. Side-facing cameras offer the same benefits, and my drivers like both cameras. These video perspectives can prove when drivers are in the right in the event of an accident.

Cameras that face the road in the front of and beside the truck and tractor have been popular and therefore easy to adopt. Now comes the problem child: driver-facing cameras. We do not have these rear-facing devices in any of our vehicles, nor will we.

Some of you are asking why? I did a little survey with some of our drivers to get a feel for their thoughts. Not one said, “I want one.” What they did say was, “Guess I will have to find another job.”

Findings from the American Transportation Research Institute latest in-cab camera study verified what I discovered in my informal survey: drivers do not like cameras in their faces while they are trying to work.

In the study, privacy was a concern for driver-facing cameras, especially among the women who responded to the survey. Women rated the protection of their privacy with driver-facing cameras onboard 34% lower than did men. I empathize. I don’t want a camera on my desk 24/7. We all know how hard drivers are to get and retain.

Also let’s look at what could happen. You have a driver come to an intersection, the light is green, but a car runs their red light into the intersection and your driver hits the car. Luckily, your cameras shows your truck driver is not at fault. All is well, or is it?

More is not always better. Legal experts in the ATRI study claimed that driver-facing cameras can exonerate truck drivers in 49% of cases and substantiate driver negligence in 39% of cases. They estimated that road-facing footage is more consistently beneficial in a driver’s defense, exonerating drivers 63% of the time and substantiating neglect 36% of the time.

For example, Mr. Lawyer finds out you have driver-facing cameras where he discovers your driver is reaching for a soda in the drink holder. Now this accident in which the other car ran a red light becomes partly your driver’s fault because if he was watching he could have avoided the accident. You just went from no liability to partial liability.

The driver respondents in the study noted that “with enough footage, a plaintiff attorney will always find some minor driver issue or behavior to fault.” They were afraid that the more surveillance footage in plaintiff attorney hands, the more material that might be presented negatively to a jury even there is no substantial evidence of driver negligence or error.

A driver’s job is hard enough without the pressure of knowing anything he does can and will be used against him. Let’s not forget without drivers none of us have a job and the shelves would be empty. Remember: drivers are human. I am going to do all I can to keep our drivers happy while keeping them and the company safe and protected.

Joey Berkemeyer is the director of safety at Wayne Smith Trucking in Morrilton, Ark.

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Arkansas Trucking Association
PO Box 3476 (72203)
1401 West Capitol Ave.
Suite 185
Little Rock, AR 72201

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  • PROTECT the collective interests of trucking companies in the political and regulatory arenas.
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