Cameras in Semi-Trucks: Pros, Cons and Concerns

defensive drivingWhen truck accidents occur, news media often villainizes the driver and the entire trucking industry. It discusses exhausted drivers and speeding truckers but rarely considers whether the passenger vehicle driver or other injured parties may be at fault. Currently, there are no laws on having cameras in trucks. These dashcams can help commercial drivers prove they are not at fault. Because of this, many trucking companies have pushed for in-ward facing cameras in semi-trucks but there are some pros, cons and concerns.

Why More Commercial Truck Drivers Should Consider Cameras

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reports that, between 2009 and 2014, there was a 40% increase in traffic deaths involving larger, commercial vehicles. In 2017, almost 5,000 buses and large trucks became involved in fatal accidents. This showed a 6% increase compared to the prior year. Because of the size of trucks compared to the passenger vehicles, bikes, bicycles or pedestrians, injuries and damages are high.

Legal professionals have made millions each year by profiting off the pain of crash victims. The more serious a victim’s injuries are, the more money they can expect to receive after seeking a settlement or pursuing a lawsuit. When there is no proof of what took place, the insurance company may have no choice but to decide the trucker is liable. Note that many personal injury attorneys take a percentage cut of their clients’ settlements in payment.

In-cab cameras that face the road can show what happened from the driver’s point of view. Driver-facing cameras can further showcase that the driver was not distracted, drowsy, drunk or otherwise impaired. Over time, this can help decrease insurance costs for truckers and their employers.

How Misplaced Fault Affects the Commercial Trucking Industry

When insurance companies place the blame on truck drivers, they face personal and professional consequences. How bad these consequences are may depend on the severity of the accident. For instance, the driver may lose his or her job. Some drivers even lose their commercial driving licenses.

In some instances, the transportation company may also receive some of the misplaced blame for the accident. Trucking is an expensive business that requires high startup capital. After all, neither trucks, trailers nor trucker wages are cheap. Sometimes, all it takes is one bad lawsuit to sink a company so badly that it cannot recover and must shut its doors for good.

This may cause other truckers to lose their jobs and preferred routes. It may also lead to mass consolidation across the industry, over time. This could ultimately reduce competition, drive up delivery costs and reduce wages, all negative factors for trucking companies, truck drivers, and the general population.

How In-Cab Cameras Assist With Determining Fault

It’s important to note that in-cab cameras do not provide a foolproof mechanism to protect truckers, their employers or the industry. Video footage has surfaced on several occasions that provided incriminating evidence against truckers. Some employers argue that this is exactly why the cameras are so important. Cameras allow them to correct dangerous behaviors before they lead to accidents.

When an accident occurs and the driver is not at fault, camera footage may affect the insurance claims process in the following ways:

  • Roadway-facing video evidence may provide incriminating evidence against the injured party, such as a pedestrian staring at a phone while stepping out into the street.
  • Driver-facing cameras may provide additional evidence that the trucker was awake, alert and not distracted.
  • Even if the driver did have some negligence in the matter, the video footage can prove the other involved party also acted negligently, which may cancel out the case or lead to only partial liability.
  • Insurance companies ask fewer questions and process claims faster when there is video evidence.
  • Video footage reduces or eliminates the likelihood of the injured party attempting to take the case to court to seek compensation after the insurance company denies the claim.

Why It May Take More Time for In-Cab Cameras To Take Off

Dashcam use is becoming more popular among all drivers on the road. In 2018, USA Today reported a 20% increase in dashcam purchases, compared to the prior year. This has also led to a decrease in cost for the devices. However, when companies manage dozens of dashcams per fleet, the cost of installing one in each vehicle can quickly add up.

Resistance from truckers, due to privacy concerns, may also cause fleets to lose drivers. In an industry where truck drivers are in scarce supply, this may cause many employers to reconsider. Truckers have also created several petitions to encourage lawmakers to outlaw the use of driver-facing cameras. Until that happens, many fleet managers may continue to make installation mandatory.

The good news is that truckers show very little resistance to installing roadway-facing dashcams. Even on their own, these traditional dashcams can do wonders to prove true negligence in commercial trucking accident insurance claims.

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