Video Cams in Trucks: Safety Initiative or Intrusion?

By June 23, 2014 June 23rd, 2015 NationaLease, Safety

Can a camera in a cab really save over 800 lives per year? Not on its own, study says.

To paraphrase a well-known statement, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean people aren’t watching you. Cameras are everywhere. Don’t believe it? In 2011, a study conducted in Great Britain showed that there was one CCTV camera for every 32 people in the UK, or 1.85 million cameras. Today, Chicago reportedly has at least 15,000 cameras installed in one of the largest U.S. networks. And only someone who’s been living off the grid for years wouldn’t know about the NSA. Did you really think that truck drivers wouldn’t be far behind?

A recent article in, “Study Says Video-Based Safety System Could Cut Fatalities 20%” discusses a recent study conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute for Lytx regarding its DriveCam system. The study concludes that if “every commercial vehicle over 10,000 pounds were equipped with an in-cab video-based driver safety system, about 800 lives could be saved each year and more than 38,000 injuries prevented.” This was a follow-up to research conducted in 2009 conducted by Virginia Tech for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The camera alone won’t make the difference

By crunching numbers from that earlier study along with numbers in a large national crash database, the conclusion is that trucks and buses equipped with the DriveCam program could reduce an average of 727 fatal truck and bus crashes and save 800 lives. That sounds so simple; yet it’s not, because this is not just about the camera…it’s about the entire safety system which includes a coaching component. As Jeffrey S.Hickman, group leader of the study says, “Simply installing an event recorder in a truck or bus without following the DriveCam program will not yield the results shown in the current report.” According to Del Lisk, vice president, safety services for Lytx, “It’s not just sticking a camera in the vehicle. That isn’t going to do a lot to move the needle in terms of safety.” That’s why the company is not in favor of government mandating the technology; there’s no guarantee that the vital driver coaching steps would be taken. The suggested use for the technology is that, when a driver exhibits unsafe behavior that’s caught on camera, that driver should be shown the video and coached on safe practices.

OOIDA disputes the findings

It should come as no surprise that not everyone agrees with these findings. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) accuses the study of relying on faulty methodology and using inaccurate assumptions to come to conclusions. The feeling from the association is that there is an attempt to replace driver training and years of experience and safe driving with technology. In fact, I recommend that you link to the article and read the comments. It’s clear that those drivers feel this practice is another step in the “big brother” direction.

However, Bill Graves, president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations feels that driver monitoring systems could be an asset. Acknowledging the fact that most serious track crashes are caused by other motorists, Graves does say that “driver monitoring systems hold great promise for mitigating the remaining preventable crashes.”

So, whether you like it or not, privacy in the 21st century may well be an unaffordable and possibly unattainable luxury, but if a new technology can actually help prevent death and injury, should we really be fighting it? Let us know what you think.

Image source: Heavy Duty Trucking/

Jane Clark

About Jane Clark

Jane Clark is Vice President of Member Services for NationaLease. Before joining the full service truck leasing organization, she served in executive positions with some of the nation’s top staffing and recruitment agencies.

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