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Smaller fleets resist dash cams despite their exoneration of drivers

Outward facing dash cam inside truck shows the open two-lane road.

While a recent FreightWaves survey found about 30% of fleets still resist dash cam technology, truckers and carriers that adopt dash cams report lower legal fees, litigation risks and insurance claims.

“Most owner operators I know would never leave home without a dash cam,” said Dean Croke, chief insights officer at FreightWaves.

Croke has a 35-year career in the freight industry, serving at the executive level in data and analytics at Spireon and Omnitracs. He still, however, owns and operates a Class 8 truck.

“As a commercial driver about 20 years ago, I did about 2 million miles as an over-the-road driver and owned and managed fleets,” he said. “In the days before iPhones, I would issue every driver a camera. And even back before the digital era when the iPhone became more common, having photographic evidence was vastly helpful. I still own a Class 8 truck. I still drive on the road. For me, [the dash cam is] one of those pieces of technology that’s absolutely compulsory.”

Among the resistant 30%, reasons to avoid dash cams range from protecting driver privacy to the fear of driver turnover. Experienced operators, who like smaller fleets’ promise of work/life balance and autonomy, resist in-cab technologies because they take pride in their long record of safe driving. Trends show that as fleets decrease in size, they’re more likely not to adopt dash cams.

“My general takeaway is there’s a higher adoption rate for larger fleets,” Croke said. “They have more exposure to litigation and liability. They also have more resources. They may or may not be more safety conscious. I’m not sure about that. I have some theories as to why smaller fleets don’t adopt technology like this. A lot of it has to do with cost and compliance.”

This survey, conducted in partnership with J. J. Keller & Associates, showed that forty percent of fleets have implemented dash cams in the past 20 months, which coincides with the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate. This means many fleets are implementing both in-cab technologies simultaneously.

Dash cams have the capability to memorize the driver’s head and study the rate of eyelid closure in order to detect sleeping, texting and driver vigilance. That protects both the driver and other vehicles on the road. New drivers and fleet managers point to those and additional benefits of the technology.

“KeepTruckin Driver Scorecards and Smart Dashcam footage have made our coaching much more effective,” said Norman Bright, fleet and safety manager at Woodford Oil in Elkins, West Virginia. “In four short months, we’ve seen a significant decrease in critical events, including hard-braking events cut in half and an almost 70% reduction in hard accelerations.”

The dash cam protects drivers from bad habits, such as distracted driving, and related hard-brake events. Lack of evidence in accidents also continues to be an obstacle for insurance underwriters, so dash cams’ real-time tracking capabilities provide lower risk-related costs and also evidence to exonerate drivers.

“One of our drivers was involved in a collision with a passenger vehicle and was immediately deemed at fault,” said Rod Conrad, terminal manager at D&A McRae Transportation in Sigurd, Utah. “Footage from KeepTruckin’s Smart Dashcam exonerated our driver on the spot and saved us what could have been close to $50,000 in damages. From this one incident, the dash cam paid for itself.”


  1. Dave

    “Among the resistant 30%, reasons to avoid dash cams range from protecting driver privacy”

    I wonder if this is about the audio that is recorded, which can easily be turned off, or for those dash cams that are connected to the cloud and log GPS data among other things?

  2. Bill Hood

    Last year I said in 5-years the small carrier that is not using the data and connectivity of the ELD to leverage better insurance rates is going to find that they are being priced out of the business. It is going to be “what do you not want us to know” attitude.

    After seeing the advances already made in the field I think I could be off a couple of years.

    And carriers that have adopted open-source platforms like Geotab are going to be able to find many more options including managed services to help monitor the data and deliver training to help correct unsafe driving habits.

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Corrie White

Corrie is fascinated how the supply chain is simultaneously ubiquitous and invisible. She covers freight technology, cross-border freight and the effects of consumer behavior on the freight industry. Alongside writing about transportation, her poetry has been published widely in literary magazines. She holds degrees in English and Creative Writing from UNC Chapel Hill and UNC Greensboro.