Inward-facing problems

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Carriers have finally found a way to lower the quality of new drivers: It’s no secret that many are moving to the use of dual inward- and outward-facing cameras to monitor driver behavior in-cab and simultaneous on-highway performance. In the words of Moon Unit Zappa, “Gag me with a spoon.”

Driver-facing cameras are not going to solve the problem of having drivers with six months’ experience training drivers with two weeks of experience. Therein lies one of the biggest problems going in trucking. You can’t let the cataract-afflicted lead the blind around and expect good results. Companies may deny this habit, but I know people personally who have encountered it. They go to work, and do a good job for a couple of months. They’re approached almost immediately to participate in a lease-purchase program, and when they enter it, they’re offered the option of “making that extra cash” by training.

Carriers routinely note during camera implementations that the devices are only triggered by “driving events” that tell the machine to save and record, that they don’t record all the time. Apparently, such carriers have never driven on an Indiana highway, because if the camera is triggered by jars and bumps, they’ll have complete, uncut footage of anyone driving the roads around Terre Haute. God forbid the driver go to Oklahoma and attempt highway 69 — they might well be filmed continuously for hours on end!

Hold on to your cameras! And everything else in the cab…Hold on to your cameras! And everything else in the cab…

I can’t possibly imagine anything more distracting and crippling to a new driver than being concerned about whether or not the little red light comes on. And if you want to give the ambulance-chasing lawyers more chum to bloody the waters of litigation with, go ahead and let them tear one of those clips to shreds in court. Unless your driver is a robot, there will be human tics and movement that can be construed as almost anything when taken completely out of context. Also, it will take about three days before someone figures out how to hack the system, and clips of everyone will be all over the internet, resulting in even more lawsuits. Why invite such problems and headache?

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Here’s a crazy idea. Why don’t carriers take the money invested in the camera system and fill all the seats you’ll have to fill when the people who won’t stand for it quit, and invest it in some real driver training? How about throw a little cash towards a marketing campaign that attempts to highlight the good drivers you have, and make it better for those who do stay? I know, I know, that’s just silly talk by a woman who doesn’t own thousands of trucks, but it seems like taking the problems on mid-stream is going to be a whole lot more difficult than making sure you don’t have them from the beginning.

If this industry continues down the road of crippling drivers, the perceived shortage will become a very real event. Right now, there are plenty of drivers — there just aren’t enough willing to put up with having a trained attack dog in the cab with them that will chew their leg off when they hit a bump. Yes, there are people who will scream “personal accountability” and flop around on the floor with a holier-than-thou attitude, but they probably don’t have cameras in their face — yet.

I’m going to hide and watch, and hope for the best, but the choking control is getting worse by the day, and frankly, I don’t have a lot of hope for the way things are going. Speed limiters, inward-facing cameras, hyper-regulation and rules put in place by people who have never even been inside a truck, much less driven one, are going to be the undoing of it. And then how will Sally Soccer Mom get her energy drinks?

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