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Inward-facing cameras gain ground as drivers grumble

Reviled by truckers as a privacy intrusion, more fleets adopting them

Driver-facing cameras are seen as intrusive and an invasion of privacy in the truck-driving community. Yet fleets are rapidly adopting them as a tool to fight against nuclear verdicts in which their drivers get blamed for accidents. 

Can you see me now?

Most truck drivers see value in forward-facing cameras mounted high on their windshields. Countless cases of drivers being vindicated — and a few being found responsible — for roadway crashes, parking lot entanglements and the like put the camera in the role of unbiased and accurate witness.

Turn those cameras around to record the driver’s actions and the enthusiasm disappears. Despite the chafing of many drivers at being watched at work, fleets are rapidly incorporating the technology as an additional tool in the fight against nuclear jury verdicts that can put them out of business.

Driver-facing camera from Lytx
Rear-facing cameras like this one from Lytx are designed to protect driver privacy because they do not collect biometric identifiers or scans of facial geometry. (Photo illustration: Lytx)

Driver-facing cameras a matter of trust

With a shortage of 78,000 drivers in the U.S. — according to the American Trucking Associations — it doesn’t take much to get a driver to jump from one employer to another. Sure, money will do it. But so will technology, especially if it is foisted on a driver population without explanation.

“There’s a lot of work that has to go on at the fleet level to be able to prove to the drivers that this can really help you,” Greg Shipman, a partner with Infinit-I Workforce Solutions told me in the exhibit area of the ATA Management Conference and Exhibition this week. “It’s a trust process. They have to prove the trust with the driver that they’re using it for their benefit.”

Companies have a lot to gain, if they roll out driver-facing cameras properly.


“Psychologically, it’s a huge perspective change on the driver’s side,” said Byron Wiebold, who leads industry relations for driver software provider Tenstreet. “For the drivers, communication is the No. 1 issue. So, if you set that communication level at the outset of hiring the driver and follow that all the way through, then it definitely benefits your company.”

Taking the driver’s temperature on driver-facing cameras

The American Transportation Research Institute fielded a survey in July to find out what drivers thought about inward-facing cameras. It was a research priority set for the ATA’s independent research group in 2021. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association helped set the priority and influenced the questions asked. Results are pending.

Driver retention strategist WorkHound conducted its own survey on the subject a few months ago. The Chattanooga, Tennessee-based company learned several things.

“The immediate resistance is usually very high from drivers when they see this technology is going to be introduced,” Workhound CEO Max Farrell told me. “We have seen companies able to successfully implement it [but] it does take a lot of coaching and thought in how they approach it.”

An across-the-fleet rollout, for example, is a bad way to go.

“When it comes to messaging, that’s one of the biggest misses these companies have because they roll this stuff out and it makes sense to the CFO, to the safety person, to the executives. But you have to have it make sense to the driver.”

Companies also forget that pointing out even one behavioral concern in a review of driving behavior can create antipathy toward the technology.

“They never call them about the 10 good things they did over the five months prior to that,” Farrell said. “So, that driver latches on to that and has a negative outlook toward that camera.”

The fleet perspective

Those feelings may not matter in the end. All trucks eventually will require some version of driver-facing cameras, Rob Penner, CEO of Bison Transport, told me. 

“If you’re going to play in this industry, you’ve got to,” Penner said. “The same driver that’s going to oppose your inward-facing camera has got a dash cam. So, they understand the value of video footage protecting them. Why you have the forward facing and not the inward facing is a pretty hard question to answer.”

Bison uses inward-facing cameras in its driver training trucks and to manage driver fatigue. But they are not yet ubiquitous on its 2,600 tractors. 

Penner doesn’t think communicating about the cameras is particularly important.

“You can communicate all you want. People will have their own views of that,” he said. “But as it continues to become an industry standard, I think that’s the way it is.”


Trucking industry’s big meet

In a city where daily temperatures average in the upper 60s in October, the ATA Management Conference and Exhibition conducted most of its business inside the cavernous San Diego Convention Center this week. Among the highlights:

Autonomy everywhere

Autonomous trucks occupied a lot of OEM floor space. Paccar and Volvo together showed three concepts of the Level 4 autonomous trucks they are working on with Aurora Innovation, including the latest Kenworth T680 with the finished looks of its sibling Peterbilt. (Kenworth showed a proof-of-concept autonomous truck at CES in 2020.) TuSimple displayed its latest upfit version of the Navistar LT.

Autonomous-equipped Kenworth T680
The Kenworth T680 autonomous truck joined its sibling Peterbilt 579 with autonomous upfitting from Aurora Innovation. (Photo: Alan Adler/FreightWaves)

Just super

More striking in the Peterbilt display was its SuperTruck 2 demonstrator. The truck started in a Department of Energy program to show future technologies likely to find their way into production. The 15-liter diesel with a 48-volt mild-hybrid powertrain focuses on a waste heat recovery system, a challenge to all entrants in the SuperTruck 2 program announced in 2016.

The truck and trailer combo weighs in at 4,800 pounds less than the production truck on which it is based because of extensive use of carbon fiber, aluminum and high-strength steel. The split-level integral cab with an articulating center driver’s seat — think Tesla Semi — features a large, wrap-around dash,as well as a15-inch digital dash display for virtual gauges and vehicle data.  

The Peterbilt SuperTruck 2 concept vehicle broke cover at the American Trucking Associations’ Management Conference and Exhibition. (Photo: Alan Adler/FreightWaves)

A charge for Mack?

Keeping a positive public face on trucking, Volvo Trucks North America re-upped as exclusive sponsor of the America’s Road Team for the 21st consecutive year in 2023. Sibling Mack Trucks will sponsor ATA’s Share the Road and Workforce Heroes programs for a 22nd straight year.

Speaking of Mack, it showed the Anthem daycab in its display space. Almost all attention since the Anthem debuted in 2018 has focused on the sleeper cab highway truck. Could Mack be giving love to the daycab version as a preview of an electrified version? 

It would not be a stretch to build it alongside the Volvo VNR Electric regional haul truck in New River Valley, Virginia. Or it could join Mack’s lone electric truck entry, the LR Electric refuse hauler, in its Lehigh Valley Operations facility in Macungie, Pennsylvania.

Does that thing come in electric? Not yet, but maybe Mack is thinking that way in giving some love to the Anthem daycab at the ATA conference. (Photo: Alan Adler/FreightWaves)

Daimler Truck North America skipped out on its own display space, placing a Freightliner Cascadia in the Platform Science display, which also hosted Navistar’s S13-equipped LT debuting next year.

Code of silence

DTNA saved its pennies for the annual mystery concert held as an appreciation event for its dealers and customers. Guessing the entertainer is futile. Just three people inside the company know the identity. This year, Piano Man Billy Joel joined a plethora of A-list musicians that has included Paul McCartney, the Eagles and the Rolling Stones.

Billy Joel entertains Daimler Truck dealers and customers in San Diego. (Photo: Alan Adler/FreightWaves)

Best of the rest …

Data analytics provider Fleet Advantage plans to order 200 Class 8 electric trucks for delivery in 2023. No word on what company or companies get the business.

The Autonomous Vehicle Industry Association (AVIA) named Jeff Farrah its first executive director. Established in 2016, the AVIA represents automotive, trucking, delivery and rideshare companies.

A Kenworth T680 76-inch midroof sleeper cab with a new graphic design departs next Saturday with the 2022 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree in tow destined for the West Lawn of the Capitol building.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Kenworth revealed the graphics package for the T680 that will haul the Capitol Christmas Tree to Washington. (Photo: Kenworth) 

That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading. Click here to get Truck Tech via email on Fridays.

Alan

7 Comments

  1. LTL Truck Driver

    If you put them in one type of company vehicle, put them in every company vehicle that is driven on public highway. CEO company car, Regional Mangers, Salespeople, and Shop vehicles. HOLD EVERYONE TO THE SAME STANDARD.

  2. Bobby Bibbs

    Ok. Why in the hell would you create another avenue for an attorney to attack? Oh right screw the driver. Find anyway you can to put this on the driver. Let’s put them in the sleeper. At what point do you hire and train drivers to behave correctly. Nuclear verdicts are a product of our society, of “oh they have insurance. They can afford it mentality.” We need reform in the courts. Just go ahead and fire all drivers and go automous. Profit is all your dream. Thx for destroying an industry.

  3. David Cox

    I’ve had forward cams for 8 years and driver facing for over 2 years. I haven’t had to change my behavior or be different. I see them both as positives. You’ll not have to be grilled by insurance companies. They’ll have seen the video, no questions needed.

  4. Paperback Driver

    The same CEO that’s going to oppose a 24 hour surveillance camera in every office has got a 24 hour exterior security system protecting their property. So, they understand the value of video footage protecting them. Why you have the exterior security system and not the office surveillance system is a pretty hard question to answer.

  5. Sarah Elizabeth

    I am making 90 dollars an hour working from home. I never imagined that it was honest to goodness yet my closest companion is earning $16,000 a month by working on a laptop, that was truly astounding for me, she prescribed for me to attempt it simply. Everybody must try this job now by just using this website.. 𝐰𝐰𝐰.𝐏𝐫𝐨𝐟𝐢𝐭𝟗𝟕.𝐜𝐨𝐦

  6. Thagearjammer

    surveillance doesn’t just lead to bad data-it undermines trust, a critical factor in organizational success that, once lost, is incredibly difficult to regain.

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Alan Adler

Alan Adler is an award-winning journalist who worked for The Associated Press and the Detroit Free Press. He also spent two decades in domestic and international media relations and executive communications with General Motors.