California AG Gives Thumbs Up on Driver Video Cameras
February 24, 2014
California’s Attorney General Kamala Harris’s office issued an opinion earlier this month saying continuous video taping of truck drivers while they are behind the wheel does not violate state law.
The opinion was requested by a state senate member who wanted to also know if such video footage could legally be viewed by a third party and used as the basis of for discipline against the truck driver by their employer. The concern was that such use could violate a state law put on the books about 85 years ago.
In saying such use is permitted, the attorney general’s office said it would be legal “provided that the third party is an agent of the driver’s employer who is videotaping and inspecting the file for the sole benefit of the driver’s employer, and that the file is furnished only to the driver’s employer.”
The AG also noted such use is allowed if, “when the video recordings are used for training or disciplinary purposes, the recording is made available to the driver or the driver’s bargaining representative.”
The attorney general’s office was asked whether California Labor Code section 1051 is violated by using driver-facing or forward-facing video cameras that continuously record the actions of a truck or bus driver. Third-party companies under contract with the driver’s employer currently offer such systems.
Typically, the footage is recorded in a continuous loop, overwriting previous footage, unless the vehicle undergoes an unusual force such as hard braking, swerving, or a collision. When such a triggering event occurs, the camera then saves the footage that has been recorded for some set period of time before and after the event.
The video is received by the system operator, who then may “code,” or mark, the recording for ease of review, and is then made available to the driver’s employer for review of the driver’s actions before and after the triggering event. The employer is then in a position to use the video file for training or disciplinary purposes, according to the attorney general’s office.
Two years ago California lawmakers passed legislation that was signed into law allowing video event recorders in commercial vehicles law and bringing the state “into alignment with federal motor safety regulations, which exempt such devices from the federal prohibition against driver-view obstructions,” the attorney general’s office noted.