Driver-facing cameras are not well-used across the trucking industry, despite knowledge of their safety benefits, according to research by the American Transportation Research Institute.
ATRI’s report, “Issues and Opportunities with Driver-Facing Cameras,” finds trucking firms are not using driver-facing cameras for a host of reasons. Among them are:
- Driver privacy issues/concerns.
- Confusion over video use, personal access and recording models.
- Concern the systems will magnify truck driver negligence.
“These concerns are generally unique to trucking, since most school, transit, and charter bus fleets readily install and use driver- or passenger-facing cameras,” ATRI notes.
ATRI’s research set out to understand truck driver issues and perceptions surrounding driver-facing camera use and to better understand these cameras’ role in claims and litigation processes. The association concludes that drivers, legal experts, and insurers have important roles to play if carriers want to fully leverage the technology’s benefits.
What Truck Drivers Said About Driver-Facing Cameras
In 2017, research by the AAA Foundation estimated video-based onboard safety monitoring systems could prevent 63,243 truck-involved crashes, 2,753 injuries and 293 deaths every year — if these systems were installed on all large trucks in the U.S.
Vendor-sponsored research by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute suggested even greater benefits. That study found in-cab cameras, combined with corrective driver training, could reduce truck- and bus-involved fatalities by 801 and prevent 25,007 injury crashes annually.
These findings highlight the impact in-cab camera systems and policies can have in reducing roadway incidents. So why are these systems not widely used?
ATRI surveyed 2,100 truck drivers representing truckload, less-than truckload, and specialized drivers to uncover the reasons for their suspicions about the technology.
Drivers who already had driver-facing cameras in the cab gave the technology an overall approval score of 2.6 on a zero-to-10 scale, showing truck drivers do not hold them in high regard. Those same drivers rated the cameras’ ability to positively impact litigation at 4 out of 10 on average.
Drivers feared that with enough footage, plaintiff attorneys would uncover minor issues or behaviors to fault. Drivers worried that providing plaintiffs with more material to present negatively to a jury would affect court outcomes.
One respondent said, “The driver-facing camera can only add [additional footage] that will hurt the driver’s case.” For example, he said, if someone runs a red light and hits the truck, a road-facing camera might show the driver had a green light. But the driver-facing camera might show the driver taking a drink at the moment of the crash. Then, the driver would be found at fault for the accident.
However, truck drivers who had been involved in litigation where driver-facing footage was used sang a different tune. They had a more positive opinion of the technology, showing how positive outcomes from driver-facing camera footage improves driver perceptions.
Privacy and Safety
ATRI also rated driver perceptions of driver-facing cameras in four key areas: safety, litigation, privacy, and overall approval. Drivers rated their ability to protect privacy the lowest. They worried about privacy intrusions, especially during off-duty time in sleeper cabs.
Drivers shared situations where driver-facing cameras activated randomly or instances where safety managers discussed footage recorded when they were off duty. “Though these instances are rare, they contribute to the strong privacy concerns raised by truck drivers,” the paper said.
One driver said, “Our personal space is just like a home. A company may own the truck, but that doesn’t give them the right to have a camera looking at me.”
Females rated the technology’s ability to protect their privacy 24% lower than male drivers. Some female drivers complained they have experienced “voyeurism, unwanted comments about their appearance, and even sexual harassment from employees tasked with reviewing DFC footage,” the paper concludes.
Using driver-facing camera footage to proactively improve safety also boosted driver perceptions of the technology, found the ATRI research.
When technology is used for ongoing driver coaching, creating and improving general driver safety programs, and training drivers, approval ratings increased. In fact, when carriers used driver-facing footage for all three of those preventive safety measures, approval ratings were 87% higher than when carriers did not use the footage for these purposes.
Functionality Changes Perceptions
Camera formats, functionalities, and attributes also influence driver perceptions, according to ATRI research.
Driver-facing cameras can be set to turn on during an incident or to continuously record. On average, respondents considered event-based cameras 21% better for improving safety than continuously recording DFCs. Drivers noted continuous recording made them stressed and anxious in challenging situations because they know everything they do is monitored and can be used against them.
One LTL driver said driver-facing cameras “actually endanger my safety and those around me because I feel stressed and nervous about being watched, even though I’m doing nothing wrong.”
In contrast, truck drivers with event-based cameras rated their effectiveness on litigation higher than drivers with continuous models, an opinion shared with legal experts in the survey. Event-based systems reduce irrelevant footage and disclosure of video that indicts the driver, according to ATRI.
Truck drivers also believed event-based driver-facing cameras protected their privacy slightly better (1.86, compared to 1.58 for continuous) on average than continuous-recording ones. “This suggests truck drivers have privacy issues with DFCs regardless of camera format,” ATRI’s paper asserts.
Truck driver perceptions will improve when they can see (and trust) the recording status of driver-facing cameras, according to the research.
“With a driver-facing camera, you feel you are being watched 100% of the time. I know that’s not the case, but it’s the perception,” said one LTL driver. “The company has to assure drivers they are not looking to punish them for every little thing they do wrong.”
Drivers are also worried about who has access to the footage. Most (64%) believe safety directors should be able to review the footage, while 47% believed the driver also should also have full access to the footage to protect transparency.
“Truck drivers were more hesitant about attorneys having access to DFC footage, and they least favor carrier executives and dispatchers having access,” ATRI writes.
When asked how to improve acceptance, “drivers expressed a desire for strict and clear agreements on what footage is viewed by whom and under what circumstances — so they are not faced with improper use of footage or sudden policy changes in which they have no say,” ATRI writes.
Some drivers even proposed using legally binding contracts or third-party auditors to ensure carriers abide by policies and privacy rules.
10 Steps to Greater Acceptance
Drivers offered the following 10 suggestions for how to improve driver-facing camera acceptance, according to ATRI.
- View Footage Only After a Crash. Around 18.8% of drivers recommended only using driver-facing footage for legal purposes and not for coaching or internal evaluations. Carriers can respond to this by developing a policy noting footage is only viewed after a crash or significant event.
- Off When Not Moving. Around 16.7% of drivers believe driver-facing cameras should never be on when they are off duty, on break, or parked at a shipper facility or gas station. Due to trust issues, many drivers said they would like to see a mechanical shutter they can manually close to guarantee DFCs are not recording while they are off duty.
- Full Driver Control. Approximately 13.7% of drivers said they wanted full authority over DFC use.
- Less Fault Seeking. Around 11.6% of drivers said they want to see less “nitpicking” and “micromanaging” by managers, safety directors and other carrier employees because of DFC footage. ATRI suggest carriers develop coaching programs for when video footage shows significant or recurring behaviors. “Emphasis should be placed on outcomes rather than behaviors alone,” writes ATRI, and offer “the opportunity for genuine skill growth.” Carriers might also implement driver-led coaching where drivers view footage from safety-critical events and are prompted to develop a response.
- Less Sensitive Triggers. Over 9% of drivers felt event-based DFCs are too sensitive and believed cameras should only be activated by significant safety events. ATRI recommends carriers take steps to adjust camera sensitivity.
- Commensurate Pay Increase. According to 7.3% of drivers, a pay increase for using driver-facing cameras would make them more amenable to the technology. ATRI says, “carriers could view DFC footage as an expanded work responsibility and offer additional compensation in exchange.” They might also respond to DFC-based safety improvements with graduated pay or bonuses based on camera activity or lack thereof.
- Full Driver Access to Footage. Over 7% of drivers suggested carriers give them full access to video footage and provide formal assurances that no additional inaccessible footage is being collected. ATRI says carriers can develop formal policies and agreements as to who views the footage and under what circumstances to alleviate driver concerns.
- End Punitive use. Nearly 7% of drivers said they fear driver-facing cameras will be used to punish them or cut their bonuses. These same drivers said they were open to coaching and feedback as long as there is no penalty associated with DFC-captured behaviors that did not lead to an incident. ATRI recommends carriers prioritize positive DFC feedback over negative feedback and reward improvements with safety bonuses or recognition.
- Probation Drivers Only. Around 6% of drivers consider it appropriate to use driver-facing cameras with new drivers or drivers with safety infractions. But they are against using them for drivers with proven safety records. Carriers could activate a DFC or assign a driver to a tractor with a DFC after a safety incident for a predetermined number of accident-free miles or months. This policy would help carriers train and improve behaviors of drivers at the most risk for safety incidents. But legal experts say when DFCs are turned off, it opens carriers to litigation exposure.
- Better Communication. Around 3.3% of those surveyed agreed communicating DFC use, policies and procedures in a clear and transparent way would increase acceptance. Carriers could explain why they want to use DFCs and formally document how they will use the video footage and who will have access to it.
ATRI cautions that successfully implementing these strategies depends on clear communication and consistent policies. All efforts must be built upon an existing foundation of trust within the driver-carrier relationship. “Without driver trust, communication activities will probably be ineffective,” ATRI writes.
ATRI’s “Issues and Opportunities with Driver-Facing Cameras” full report is available here.
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