The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) recently released a report focused (pun fully intended) on in-cab cameras, which can be one of the more contentious topics between drivers and fleet management. Titled “Issues and Opportunities with Driver-Facing Cameras,” the research sought to quantify and qualify concerns held by drivers, motor carriers, attorneys, and insurers. As is typically the case with ATRI reports, this one is chock full of useful information that can drive meaningful change. The bottom line for carriers:  be transparent with drivers and make cameras part of a safety strategy centered around prevention, not punitive measures.

For those of us in the industry long enough to remember cameras first being a topic of discussion, a common issue has often involved driver privacy and a lack of trust (perceived or otherwise) between carriers and drivers. A typical conversation usually sounds like, “Would you want a camera on your desk all day recording every move you make? The truck is my desk, and I don’t want you watching me all day.” While this is a legitimate point, management must often view the issue through a different, bigger-picture lens.

While forward (road) facing cameras (RFCs) are becoming more commonplace, DFCs (driver-facing cameras) are decidedly not. Often carriers who have chosen not to install DFCs have reasonable business logic, which usually comes down to driver satisfaction. If the competition doesn’t have DFCs and all else is reasonably equal, installing the technology can be a dealbreaker. And in a driver-shortage environment, carriers want to minimize, if not eliminate, dealbreakers.

Much of ATRI’s report validates commonly held but previously anecdotal knowledge. In STC’s review of the report, one finding stood out:  the use of cameras as a preventative measure must include training drivers.

“When carriers use DFC footage for one preventative safety measure – creating and/or improving general driver safety programs – drivers’ overall DFC approval ratings were 19 percent higher than when carriers did not use DFC footage for preventative safety. When carriers use DFC footage for a second preventative safety measure – ongoing driver coaching as well as safety programs – drivers’ overall DFC approval ratings increased by an additional 18 percent.”

On the surface, this indicates some fleets are using video only for punitive measures and corrective actions. To shift this view, transparency is crucial. Carriers should clearly and routinely communicate the purpose of the cameras, who has access to the footage, and how they might use it. Ensure the use of video is a component of an ongoing coaching program that focuses on safety improvement, not just as a “gotcha” when a driver has a near-miss. One call-out in ATRI’s report was “fault-seeking” on the part of fleet management, with 11.6% of drivers surveyed listing this as their top concern.

STC believes there are plenty of opportunities to use video, through both RFCs and DFCs, to highlight drivers making fast, safe, and expert decisions behind the wheel when the actions of other vehicles’ drivers trigger a recording. Spotlighting and congratulating those drivers in these instances – especially through peer-to-peer coaching – reinforces the value of in-cab technologies by demonstrating the potential for protection and improving safety.