Here’s looking at you: Fleets trying to sell event recorder safety message to drivers

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Updated Oct 3, 2015

DriveCam in-cab shotMuch ink has been spilled regarding the tanking public perception numbers of law enforcement agencies in the year since the highly publicized death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. Cell phone footage from several other high-profile incidents since that time only have added fuel to the fire.

State and local police forces have been quick to adopt body cameras to capture first-person footage in the event a traffic stop or arrest escalates into violence. Taser, the nation’s largest manufacturer of police body cameras, reported sales in its body cam divisions up 288 percent in the first quarter of 2015 compared to first-quarter 2014.

Not surprisingly, law enforcement officers are widely accepting of the new technology in light of the public outrage against the officer involved in the Brown shooting, who may have been exonerated quickly had he been wearing a body camera.

In trucking, onboard video event recorders aim to provide the same level of security and event documentation for fleets and drivers. But drivers haven’t been as enthusiastic as law enforcement. Just as the blowback occurred from the company driver and owner-operator communities over the electronic logging device mandate, fleets often are hesitant to test the waters with a device that can be seen as yet another intrusion into a driver’s life.

Last February, I spoke with Tom Kretsinger, president of American Central Transport, just a week before the Liberty, Mo.-based carrier was set to announce the planned fleetwide installation of the Lytx DriveCam system by yearend. Naturally, he was a little leery about how the news would be received by ACT’s 390 company drivers and independent contractors.

A week after the rollout, we spoke again. After delivering a well-crafted message on the benefits of video event recorders to his company’s drivers, Kretsinger reported the company had weathered the initial resistance.

Lytx DriveCam provides both forward- and driver-facing camera angles and records 10 seconds before and 10 seconds after safety critical events.Lytx DriveCam provides both forward- and driver-facing camera angles and records 10 seconds before and 10 seconds after safety critical events.

Now that the majority of ACT trucks are equipped with video event recorders, Kretsinger is encouraged by the amount of positive information drivers are sharing about the technology with their peers. “The debate that is going on is between them instead of me and them,” he says.

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ACT provides free installation of event recorders for its 80 independent contractors and now offers them a 2-cents-per-mile pay increase if they have the systems installed in their trucks. All company drivers also received the same pay increase.

The results of ACT’s event recorder program are staggering. In the first half of 2014, the company had 16 U.S. Department of Transportation-reportable accidents. In the first quarter of 2015, it had four accidents, but since mid-February when it started installing video event recorders, ACT has had only one accident, and that was not the truck driver’s fault.

The company’s Compliance Safety Accountability crash score has decreased from 70 to 12 this year. “Our folks feel that it has made a lot of difference,” says Kretsinger.

Given these results and similar experiences we’ve heard from other fleets that adopted video event recorders, it’s just a matter of time before they become the norm, as companies look to better defend themselves and their drivers in the event of a non-fault accident where a jury otherwise might assume the trucking company was at fault.

Equipment and installation costs for video event recorders are inexpensive, especially when you consider that just one device could save potentially millions of dollars in a favorable verdict in an injury-related accident. But in an environment where fleets are fighting for drivers, how many are willing to test the waters for fear of running them off?

As the success of ACT’s program illustrates, it’s worth potentially losing a few drivers if it nets you fleetwide safety performance benefits and better defense in a plaintiff’s case.