An increasing number of trucking companies have been investing in dual cameras inside truck cabins. The way these cameras work is simple. When a truck driver performs a specific maneuver, such as hitting the brakes hard or swerving erratically, the cameras start to record the driver's actions while simultaneously recording the road conditions they are encountering.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports approximately 400,000 trucks have these cameras installed, and some company executives say it has substantially reduced their rates of trucking accidents, as well as their insurance costs — in some cases by as much as 30 percent.
There are an estimated 3.6 million heavy trucks that operate in the U.S. These cameras cost about $35 per unit, and some companies are investing in installation for their many thousands of vehicles because the benefits have been so substantial.
Drivers have been the main opponents of these devices, arguing that they are an invasion of privacy. However, manufacturers say they have reduced the chances of companies spying on drivers by programming the cameras so that they only record when triggered by some specific action, such as rapid acceleration, hard braking, or erratic swerving.
Some in the industry believe it won't be long until this feature becomes standard and required by federal regulators, similar to the way electronic log books are now mandated. They say phasing them in now makes more sense than being forced to have them installed when the federal government decides to get on the bandwagon with it. Prices of the cameras may only climb from here.
Among the benefits cited by trucking company executives:
- Fewer crashes. Drivers are aware their actions may be recorded, so they are less likely to engage in dangerous behavior, such as pushing their luck with hours-of-service rest breaks or talking on their phone or texting.
- Exoneration. There have been some instances wherein a trucker was blamed for a crash where the evidence could have gone either way, and the video provided evidence that exonerated the trucker of wrongdoing.
- Faster settlements. In cases where the video worked in the plaintiff's favor, clearly showing the truck driver was negligent, careless, or breaking the law, trucking companies knew not to waste time trying to litigate the matter. Instead, they were motivated to more quickly reach a settlement agreement.
Although large truck involvement in fatal crashes has fallen about 73 percent since 1975 when you consider the mileage rate, new data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration indicates deadly truck and bus accidents spiked 8 percent just from 2014 to 2015. Worse, the latest figures available are reportedly 26 percent higher than they were as of 2009.
Trucking companies are exposed to liability on several fronts when their drivers cause serious crashes. That's one of the reasons truck companies are structured the way they are — with the driver being an independent contractor and carriers separate from vehicle owners, etc. All that can make truck accident litigation difficult for a plaintiff. Cameras are one of those rare means by which both sides can benefit.
Our Columbus truck accident lawyers are committed to fighting for the rights of those injured in serious crashes.