Video witnesses: Honoring the privacy bargain with drivers

| July 23, 2014

Part 1 of this feature showed the growing prevalence of dual road- and driver-facing camera systems among fleets.



Video witnesses: Dual-camera systems making in-roads in fleet trucks

How truck-based cameras are capturing evidence that affects safety and privacy on the road.

Encroachments on the measure of freedom traditionally offered by the business of truck driving are chief among some drivers’ objections to systems such as those offered by Lytx’s DriveCam and the SmartDrive service.

Prime Safety Director Steve Field says acceptance of the systems is contingent primarily on how well the fleet “explains the use of the cameras.”

Lytx representative Del Lisk notes that fleets that have success making the tool an effective one for collaborative ongoing driving education will work with Lytx to “honor our bargain” with drivers “to be minimally invasive,” given the cameras’ activation only during triggered events.

DriveCam/SmartDrive-type systems have come far enough that they were discussed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee at its February meeting.

A small minority of committee members recommended the systems be considered for unspecified potential regulation. Some members suggested requiring widespread use.

A few months later, Lytx unveiled a company-sponsored study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute that showed use of the dual-camera systems with paired driver coaching protocols potentially could reduce commercial motor vehicle crashes by as much as a third.

The study concluded the technology could eliminate some 800 fatalities per year. That’s 20 percent of fatalities resulting from truck crashes, based on averages from 2010 to 2012.

Asked whether the VTTI analysis presaged a lobbying effort to require the devices, Lytx representative Del Lisk insists on the contrary. “If we’re active in any form of [lobbying], we’re in the opposite direction,” he says. Improving safety by using a video technology is not as “simple as slamming a camera in a vehicle and everybody would get better.”

All the same, Lisk believes driver acceptance of dual-camera technology as a training tool will gain ground. A test of DriveCam use at a driver school is working to get those new drivers accustomed to the technology. “The instructor has a button that can trigger a manual event,” which then can be used in showing the driver what he did right or wrong.

Says Melton Truck Lines’ Angie Buchanan, “The drivers need to know that these cameras can’t be triggered from the [fleet] headquarters. I can’t trigger it from an outside-looking-in perspective.”

But it’s also true that behaviors captured incidentally when the cameras are triggered by a safety-related event come under the microscope at some fleets. Such clips might show a driver smoking while driving a company truck for a fleet with a no-smoking policy, such as that in place in the United Natural Foods Inc. fleet. UNFI Regional Fleet Safety Manager Deb Dancause says that, with the SmartDrive system, “We are able to pick what we want to see” in working with SmartDrive staff, to “focus on the items important to us.” That includes drivers seen smoking.

Disciplinary actions should be considered with care, says Buchanan. “You can automatically terminate over serious infractions,” she says, or “you can retrain and re-evaluate and offer second chances with accountability.”

With emphasis on the latter at Melton, acceptance has proceeded well. In three years of using DriveCam, only two drivers have left as a result of the cameras. And with confidence in the training and coaching power of the systems, Melton is among fleets that have lowered experience requirements for new hires.

At the ALK Transportation Technology Summit in May of this year, Buchanan shared a clip of a driver following behind a four-wheeler toting a small trailer that fishtailed out of control and crashed. The truck driver, having maintained plenty of following distance, brought his rig to a controlled stop well behind the vehicle.

The cameras “enable us to identify good performance and celebrate that,” says Buchanan. The company now uses the clip of the driver’s perfect stop “in every DriveCam implementation” as an example, she adds.

Brad Willis2 (800x600)Independents stand to benefit less
SmartDrive’s Adam Kahn notes a lack of utility for an independent owner-operator’s use of a dual-camera system. “They are using dash cams for personal protection and exoneration” in the event of an accident, he says.

But with 10- to 20-truck fleets running direct customer freight, a video-based driver improvement tool such as SmartDrive starts to make more sense, Kahn says. “Your shippers overall are becoming more cognizant of CSA scores and the risk/liability of contracting with a carrier that may have an above-threshold score,” marked by a golden triangle in a Compliance, Safety, Accountability category of measurement.


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Use of a video-based system, Kahn says, can be a way to improve safety scores or, at the least, show the shipper some active involvement in safety improvement.

Lisk, with Lytx’s DriveCam, notes that given the growing ease of wireless transmission of the large amounts of data that make up video events, utility of such systems, even for independents, could well increase.

“So much of the online automation is becoming more practical for a smaller fleet,” Lisk says. The DriveCam review of small-fleet videos may result in sharing only safety-critical coachable events that rise to high severity level. Since the company owner often is wearing many hats, the information presented for review “needs to be really slimmed down,” Lisk says. “It’s like if I had 15 minutes to put attention to something today, where should I put it?”

Lisk and Kahn believe costs are reasonable for smaller fleets. Using DriveCam’s consumer product as an example (available for a $50 monthly service charge), Lisk says, “even the best owner-operator can become a better driver. In that application,” video would “be a self-coaching tool. If they have a close call, they can then go online and learn from it.”

  • junebug0621

    I will NEVER work for a company that has cameras in the trucks for some idiot to sit in an office and watch me that doesn’t even know how to open a door to a truck much less watch me and tell me how to do something. if truck drivers would stand up and grow a set this would not happen,but that will never happen with all these rookies that think its normal. if companies are that worried they should drive the truck there self(oh wait they can’t) or just go out of biss. PERIOD.

  • 1984

    I don’t understand how a camera facing the driver and a mic can increase safety. Why would I let an office rat that has never even sit in a truck watch right into my face and listen to my phone conversation. 1984.

  • Big R Phillips

    Wow you guys! This is really…really get’n waaayeee outta hand! I…I…Sometimes i just dont know what to say! Oh how about, Shut’em down! All it will take is 3 to 4 days of thatfreight sit’n on those docks and ports that cant move those ships and trains sit’n in railyards and somebody’s gotta either sh-t or get off the pot!

  • Oziel Daniel Barbosa

    Whatever happened to the freedom of truck driving? Most truck drivers only stay in this under paid and unappreciated industry because they can’t stand someone looking over their shoulders, But now they bring in Big Brother to spy and invade the privacy of their home (truck) for “safety reasons”??? Real truck drivers don’t need baby sitters, never have and never will.

  • Spirit CDL

    I have a policy, treat employees like I would like to be treated. Never expect people to sustain rules or regulations that I wouldn’t tolerate. Assume my employees are humans and that they require respect to endure. This has worked pretty well so far, too bad big corps don’t understand these simple expectations.

    Here, in black and white – Hire your employees with the expectation that they will do well and most often they do. Hire your employees with the expectation that they are big screw-ups that can’t do anything without being watched (literally all the time), and you’ll soon find out that they are just what you suspect they are, big screw-ups. Plant an apple tree, you get apples, simple as that. Drive safe my friends – you never know who is watching!

  • Billy Queen Jr III

    Those that will trade liberty for temporary safety, DESERVE NEITHER LIBERTY NOR SAFETY!!!! B. Franklin 1776!

  • Mind Game

    Don’t believe these people!!! The employees at one company flipped the switch and then uploaded theses two drivers up to YouTube!!!
    You lonely drivers that need to relive him or herself will be blackmailed too by these trucking companies!!!
    Don’t fall for the BS it’s all a head game to lull you to NOT to resist so that can get you were they want you!
    And the other systems in place now use cellphone towers and can be used to listen in on your conversations!!!
    People we must stop these people just like Custer’s last stand and fight even to the death even if its personal selves and or our industry!!!
    Do like I’m about to do find another line of work and or create a job I don’t care if I gotta cut grass I will not have a camera in my truck watching me!!!
    F**k Annie and Foxx too!!! They can drive these damn trucks themselves!!!
    This is about liability so the trucking companies can lay the civil claim at your doorstep!!!
    These trucking companies knew the job was dangerous when they took it years ago!!!

  • norman ott

    In cab cameras will get rid of the drivers I see rolling by me with their feet up on the dash ear buds turned up watching porn, just like drug testing got rid of the pill poppers. I think its a bad idea, you know that some of that video will on utube.

  • jojo

    Three Ways to Send a Message
    1. Inform your Carrier that you will be taking off at least 3 days during the week of 10/31 thru 11/7. By doing this, You have just told your carrier, the ATA and the shippers/receivers that things need to Change.
    2. You, Your Family and Friends NEED to Call Your elected officials in DC.
    Inform them of your issues at 202-224-3121. It’s EASY and FAST!
    3. Go Home To VOTE! Federal Election Day is 11/4/14.

    As for ME, I’m Going Home 10/31 thru 11/7. I’M MAKING SURE THAT MY VOICE IS GOING TO BE HEARD!!!

  • jojo

    I spend 330+ days a year anywhere USA in my truck. When I am in the truck, not at home, I am At work and pay myself for every minute that I am At work.
    I am currently earning about $12.50 an hour flat. $12.50 an hour flat X 24hrs = $300.00 a day.
    Last year my CPA says i was $20,000.00 in the red. I paid my bills, ate very well and bought a $50,000.00 sports car even though I had negative earnings per hour.
    If a Co OTR Driver is being monitored (ELD’s anyone) and is being supervised via rear facing cameras 24hrs a day then it stands to reason that these Drivers are defiantly At work and should be paid for their Time At Work.
    $7.25hr X 24hrs X 300 days = $52,200.00.
    Why is the average annual income of Drivers $38,000.00?

  • jojo

    Are the lease Drivers at Prime being compensated for being under surveillance?
    If not they are little more than company Drivers who are being taken advantage of!!!
    Plutocracy Anyone????

  • Stygimoloch

    You people are out of control. Drive cameras are GREAT tools. Our fleet uses them and they have saved tens of thousands of dollars in claims against us by exonerating our drivers in major/fatal crashes and passenger claims.

    The issue isn’t about “privacy”, its about you wanting to do stupid crap and get away with it!

  • Driver

    “You people”??? Spoken like a true non-driver. Tell me, office rat, how many cameras point at YOUR desk while you work?

  • Mind Games

    Some say 1984, some say The Mark of The Beast… You decide….

  • Stygimoloch

    Would you prefer I say “You steering wheel holders”? I am a mechanic, not a driver or office monkey.

    I do stupid things when test driving buses too, I have to drive harder than a normal driver to ensure the vehicle will not break during normal operation. The difference between you and I is I take accountability for my actions if I get in trouble. My bosses understand we have to test drive hard and fight to defend our actions during intentional hard braking, acceleration, cornering and bouncing on rough roads. All he asks is that we be aware of our surroundings and do it in a professional manner (not for fun) and safely.

    Also, my workshop has 6 cameras in it, so YES, I am on camera while I work and I am happy about it! It has caught a driver stealing mechanic tools while walking through the shop! I DON’T CARE IF I AM ON CAMERA WHILE WORKING because it protects me and every other person working safely from idiots who don’t.

    Those cameras have even absolved me from a claim of theft made by a vindictive coworker.

    So if you don’t want to be on camera, I have to ask, WHY? What have you got to hide while you are on the job? When you are working you have no expectation of privacy in a company vehicle or on company property (Except the obviously private areas such as bathrooms and changing rooms).

  • Mind Games

    And so that hamburger you are eating as you are driving just don’t count aye???

  • Stygimoloch

    Are you compensated for being recorded at the bank, or a shopping center, or when walking on public streets in view of CCTV cameras?
    Get over yourself.

  • ghost from carolina

    If a driver chooses to have a dash camera in his or her truck, buy one yourself as I did and install a front facing camera only. It protects the driver and company the same way and doesn’t invade privacy.

  • Robb Cobb

    Yep, the old ‘if you’re not doing anything wrong, you don’t have anything to fear’ argument. Whatever happened to freedom loving, rugged individualists? Sad.

  • NoNo334

    I think you’re on camera because your boss honestly believes you steal stuff. He’s watching you closely so stop posting and get to work.

  • Stygimoloch

    I honestly believe you’re an idiot troll.

  • Stygimoloch

    Please explain, EXACTLY, how being on camera takes away ANY of your freedom? Unless perhaps you mean your freedom to do illegal things?

  • NoNo334

    Guess I hit a nerve.

  • centerlaneshow

    Today’s society is all about video surveillance everywhere you go your on camera regardless. Some say this is invasion of our privacy. But when out in public your no longer in private area. So one must ask yourself if you have a dashcam facing forward are you invading the person privacy. this is a double edge sword one can say yes do to the fact the person in front of you has no knowledge of that system being in use. Some would say no on account that everywhere you go your on video surveillance whether be a bank store fueling up or even driving down the road with highway surveillance.

    If this was to be taken to the supreme courts how would they react. If they banned them in the use of trucks and cars what steps would they have to take for big brother watching your every step. Yes this is a touchy subject is the use of interior drive cams invasion of privacy or not. Technically if its a company owned equipment they have that right just as banks, stores, gas, stations, and so on. where do the line get drawn. I would have to say in the sleeper birth by all rights under no reasons should a interior camera be able to record the sleep birth this is the only true private area for a truck driver.

    Their are no current laws that regulate the use of dash mounted interior or exterior camera’s as of yet. But I am most certain this will catch the attention of the courts sooner or later for better or worse.
    We have also covered this topic on our show once a few years ago I think we should bring it back up. For those that want to voice their opinion I would encourage you to call in.

  • waltv79

    Think about it Stygimoloch. Do you really think big companies obide by the rules? What says that cam turns on and off when they have no lights. Would you accept a camera in you bedroom from your employer if your appartment was on company property? Our truck wether owner-op or company is not only our place of work but also our bedroom/living room/dining room. This is why we oppose cab facing cams.

  • zemla

    Stygimoloch’s borrowed argument has been successful on several fronts in The States and that makes me nervous

  • zemla

    Bingo, they can claim safety all they want but in a courtroom we both know that a company will have camera footage that they supposedly “didn’t have” and they WONT be standing on our side of the aisle with a team of lawyers.

  • ridgerunner

    I hate cameras , unless its on the stupid jerk 4 wheeler they just passed me and slammed on his brakes in front of me and if your not a driver what are you doing in this forum , don’t they wave one for wrench turners

  • jojo

    Prime is mainly a leasing co with very few co Drivers.
    The Driver leasing the truck does not own the truck nor is the Driver an employee of Prime.
    My name is on the title of the truck that I drive even though the bank owns a larger share. Ultimately I have the final say.
    I leased a truck for 2 yrs. I knew that I was paying a very high price to use the companies equipment to further my agenda. I saved a grand a month and had a down pmt on a new truck that I specced.

  • ironage

    I have no problem with forward facing cameras. But it will be a cold day in hell when i work for a company with inward facing cameras. They can feed us all this bullshit about these cameras only coming on during “triggered events” until they are blue in the face. You can believe that crap if you want to…and it may very well be true, but only for now.

    Eventually…insurance companies WILL demand that these inward facing cameras be on all the time. Younger drivers, who have been raised with a lot of tech gadgets since they were kids, have been lulled to sleep by all of this new technology, so they will be easy to manipulate into accepting this. The problem is…fewer and fewer young people are willing to drive a truck for a living.

    The day is fast approaching when massive amounts of immigrants are going to be brought into this country to drive these trucks, because American workers are just not going to put up with the abuse, disrespect and low pay of this industry anymore. Immigrants won’t care about cameras or CSA scores…because most of them have four or five “aliases”, anyway.

  • Charles Griffith

    We use drive cam in our trucks….they are actually a benefit for you and the company, if you get in an accident and you were not at fault the camera will save you…the reason it face out and in the cab is to see what was going on while you were driving, falling asleep at the wheel, reaching for something etc.. can only be viewed when triggered it cannot be accessed remotely to spy on you, watch your braking and speed going around curves and you won’t have a problem.

  • ironage

    Simply restating what the article says does not give you credibility. It just tells everyone that you have “drank the Kool-Aid”

  • Stygimoloch

    Leasing a vehicle does not mean you own it or have the right to do anything you want with it. Having your name on the title just means you are responsible for it.

    Ultimately you have no say because the company can take the vehicle from you at any time they feel you’ve broken the lease terms.
    If you had bought it through a bank you could drive it off a cliff if you like as long as you keep making the loan payments. A lease is like an apartment, no matter how long you keep it or how much money you pay, you will never own it and you have to follow their rules.

  • Rita N Denis

    If it’s such a safety factor why don’t police have rear facing cams? The places you mention aren’t my work place / home! And as it was put previously it’s being used by large corps. so they can place drivers with even less experience behind the wheel! Ya much safer!

  • jojo

    My name is on the title of the truck that I drive because I’m buying it.
    Sir I understand what you are saying and agree with most of what you say.
    Now ask yourself if your landlord should have the right to place cameras in apartment your leasing.
    Or is it OK for Snap On to surveil you while your at work so they can supposedly train you how to properly use the tools that you may be making payments on?
    By the way, Prime has hooked these Drivers into a lease purchase program that gives these Drivers a sense of ownership.

  • jojo

    I don’t think these cameras are anything more than nose up you ass micro management techniques.
    This is why I keep saying that a Co OTR Driver is AT Work the entire time that they are stationed to the truck. These monitoring devices (ELD’s) and now rear facing cameras only confirm along with other factors that Co OTR Drivers are AT Work simply because they are being placed under 24hr supervision.
    With all of the new and upcoming rules and regs Drivers need to realize that TIME is relevant and that a system based on time needs to replace the piece work system currently used to pay Co OTR Drivers.

  • Amanda

    As a younger trucker, I am not comfortable with inward facing cameras. Don’t think we’re just ok with them because we like the convenience of using Google maps to see a satellite image of our delivery location so we can see the lay out in detail..

  • Amanda

    Let me just say, I am not ok with inward facing cameras. For me it has nothing to do with doing the right or wrong thing behind the wheel. It’s about feeling like someone is just waiting for me to screw up and watching me work the whole time.

    Having a camera facing into the truck is like a company having a camera at every desk and cubicle, not in the general building. Also, triggered event is defined by your company and I’ve heard drivers talk about cameras triggering because the wind was a little strong that day.

    I believe them when they say it’s a great training tool, but that doesn’t stop it from making me feel like my company doesn’t trust me and like my freedom in trucking is removed. Just the idea of a camera turning on whenever that’s inside my cab makes me feel very self conscious and nervous

  • ironage

    Time will tell. But i will bet you a thousand dollars that the younger generation of drivers will accept these cameras with no questions asked.

  • Elton Ben Hammonds

    I had to leave Riehl Transport because they objected to me placing a shopping bag over my camera when I was in my sleeper.

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  • DrD

    go away grease monkey, you have to drive it harder. there is a term (colorful metaphor, if you will) for you and I refuse to use it

  • Stygimoloch

    I drive vehicles harder every day than you ever will in your “career”, steering wheel holder.

  • DrD

    Sorry Charlie, does not work that way. BUT, if you are right please explain how my camera comes on when I have been sitting for over an hour ?? you have been led down the wrong path my friend or you got paid to write (copy) what you have posted.

  • Opiedude

    I really don’t mind the outside of my truck being watched . But, the inside of the cab is my personal space and that I don’t need someone watching and listening on my private Conversation with my Wife . strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.