Trucking is one of the few industries in which heavy equipment is operated among the general population, away from facilities, and without direct supervision. As a result, fleet managers had to accept not knowing what happened on the road for a long time, relying on driver feedback regarding accidents and delays. Dash cams have changed that and created a monumental shift in the industry for the good.
Not only do dash cams provide exoneration of innocent drivers, they also give fleet professionals alerts of poor driving instances. This allows them to coach drivers on negative behaviors and reward them for displaying positive, desired driving habits. Some solutions even audibly alert drivers who are fatigued, deviate from their lane, or are tailgating, adding an additional layer of in-cab protection.
Yet, skeptics still exist. I ask you to consider concrete evidence that challenges three common reasons I hear from carriers about why they hesitate to use dash cams. Let’s take a look!
“Insurance will cover our costs if we have an accident.”
That only works if you have enough insurance. Many factors go into insuring a fleet properly, and unfortunately, carriers often need more insurance than they have.
Insurance is required by Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations and individual state laws. It is the primary method carriers use to meet the FMCSA’s required levels of financial responsibility. The agency’s rules require for-hire operations of any size or type of vehicle and hazardous material haulers to have between $750,000 and $5,000,000 in liability coverage. However, the federal minimum liability coverage levels have not increased in nearly 40 years.
Transportation providers need to assess their actual exposure to risk, not the minimum required by the state of operation or the federal government. It is common for lawsuit awards to go into the millions of dollars. Carriers will need to make up the difference of whatever amount their insurance provider does not cover. For smaller operations, these lawsuit awards can cause the company to go under and cease to operate. (According to the 2022 Operational Costs of Trucking ATRI study, truckload carrier insurance premiums differ significantly by carrier size. Fleets with fewer than 26 trucks paid more than twice as much per mile for insurance as fleets with more than 1,000 trucks.)
A 2019 survey of fleets with dash cams reported that 49% of respondents saw a decrease in the average value of insurance claims, and 61% saw a decline in the number of insurance claims.1 Why would that be?
Carriers using dash cams can share their driving behavior data and how it is used to improve safety with their insurance providers and underwriters. Underwriters are the experts in analyzing data and determining the level of risk for any given coverage. But they can only analyze the data that they are aware of and what’s in front of them. So, when data is lacking, the underwriter assumes it does not exist, or it exists and is hidden because a carrier doesn’t want them to see it.
“Dash cams could hurt me in court if my driver is at fault for an accident.”
It’s important to acknowledge the facts: most accidents are caused by the passenger vehicle. The FMCSA Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts (September 2022) showed that in 2020, at least one driver-related factor was recorded for 55% of the passenger vehicle drivers in fatal crashes, compared to 32% of the large truck drivers in fatal crashes.
“Why wouldn’t you install a dash cam if you know that statistically, more than half the time, your driver probably won't be at fault?” states Rick Malchow, Industry Business Advisor at J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc. “You can’t get those odds anywhere. The value and ROI of dash cams are undeniable.”
Video is the best witness in a severe crash and can help you avoid a multimillion-dollar verdict. A video clip can prove the facts and confirm that your driver was not at fault, or at least contradict statements from the plaintiff. Unfortunately, even if you have a superior performance management program, proving that your driver was not at fault can be difficult without video evidence of the moments before the crash.
Even if you can’t fully exonerate your driver, video evidence may motivate a plaintiff to settle more quickly and for less than expected. This is because your video may show that the situation was less egregious than prior statements indicated.
In fact, the exoneration of even one driver involved in a crash with significant litigation risk will pay for the dash cam investment many times over. Additionally, proof of the driver’s innocence prevents you from firing a good driver and having to hire and train a new one!
Secondly, litigation instances are rising — and so are verdict awards. In November 2021, the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), Arlington, VA, shared in The Impact of Small Verdicts and Settlements on the Trucking Industry that cases with a settlement or verdict of less than $1 million had proliferated in the past 20 years. While not as financially damaging to a carrier as a nuclear verdict, these smaller verdicts often arise from groundless allegations, which video can often contradict. Their 2020 study, Verdicts on the Trucking Industry, indicates that verdict awards of over $1 million have also skyrocketed.
Why such significant awards? This is where you need to lean in: a carrier’s actions are judged in court by what they should have known and done, not what they took the time to find and correct. A carrier must correct any unsafe situation that could affect the motoring public. Just because you didn’t know about a driver’s habit of fill in the blank doesn’t mean you aren’t responsible for it.
On the flip side, 45% of fleets identified lower legal fees and risks of litigation as dash cam benefits.2 In addition, these fleets reduced their unknowns (what they should have known and done) by tracking and addressing risky behaviors through coaching. And it was made a lot easier with in-cab video.
“The cost of cameras is too high, and the ROI takes too long to secure.”
You’ve read about the drama and dollars - accidents, nuclear verdicts, and damage to your brand. These are the costs of NOT having dash cameras in your fleet.
But remember this: You must correct any unsafe situation that could affect the motoring public. Your operation will be scrutinized based on all discoverable data, not just the accidents and citations on a driver's record at the time of the crash.
Meeting these critical requirements is made easier by monitoring driver behavior using video. It is much harder for a plaintiff’s lawyer to prove negligence when you have a proactive coaching and training program based on observable behaviors captured by a dash cam. Timely detection and correction of unsafe behaviors reduce safety-related and operational costs, minimize potential liability, and can reduce the impact of litigation if a major crash occurs.
Protect your fleet with dash cameras. Download the free Dash Cam Return on Investment whitepaper. Don’t let a single accident sabotage your fleet. Our industry can't afford to lose any more fleets to a nuclear verdict.
VideoProtects is a product and service of J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc. J. J. Keller is the trusted source for DOT/Transportation, OSHA/Workplace Safety, Human Resources, Construction Safety and Hazmat/Hazardous Materials regulation compliance. J. J. Keller helps you increase safety awareness, reduce risk, follow best practices, improve safety training, and stay current with changing regulations. www.videoprotects.com
1Leveraging the Benefits of Dash Cam Technology. J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc. and Freightwaves. November, 2019.