Dash cams have become popular among truck drivers for a number of reasons. Mark Roberts bought one after being involved in an accident in the US. A car in front of him lost control and smacked into Mark’s tandems. The driver emerged from the car and approached the truck seemingly in anger, and Mark thought ‘Oh boy, here we go,’ assuming he would be blamed for the crash. Instead, the car driver thanked Mark for his heroic driving and for preventing a more serious outcome. Still, Mark realized it could’ve turned out differently and if the driver chose to pin the blame on him, a police officer may well have accepted his version of events. Up went the dash cam.
A few weeks ago, Mark was travelling south at the Ambassador Bridge when a US CBP Customs officer took issue with the presence of a dash cam in his truck. “You truckers just don’t get it, do you?” she blasted, informing him that you’re not allowed to record border crossings or border agents. She said she could confiscate his FAST card for violating this unknown rule (no signs are present at the border crossing to warn against using dash cams). This was obviously disconcerting to Mark – his FAST card is his livelihood.
Mark was sent over to secondary for an x-ray. Afterwards, another border officer – one who was visibly less agitated than the first – explained that Customs is concerned about dash cams because the footage can be uploaded to YouTube where it can be viewed by the criminal element while conducting reconnaissance. (There’s some irony to be found here, considering both US Customs and Canada Customs are involved in reality TV shows that would seem to reveal far more about Customs facilities and protocols than any dash cam could).
At any rate, Mark showed the second officer how the camera worked and reformatted it, deleting all its contents. He was allowed to go on his way – two hours delayed. I reached out to both Customs agencies to find out if there are any rules against dash cams at border crossings. CBSA replied quickly, indicating there are no rules against filming border crossings or Customs agents, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the agent’s ability to do their job.
US CBP is still trying to get me a response. I suspect that no formal policy about dash cams exists, and one very well may be in the process of being written after my inquiry brought some attention to the issue. That’s fine. Listen, no one’s trying to be difficult here! If there’s a rule against using dash cams at the border, then professional drivers won’t use dash cams at the border. Truckers are the best people in the world at complying with rules – that’s what they do! But they need to know what those rules are.
Mark has already taken to turning off his dash cam at the border and his carrier, Kriska, sent out a message to all drivers asking them to do likewise. Other drivers Mark has talked to since the incident place a sock over the camera to show it isn’t recording, or remove it from the dash altogether. Again, no one here is looking to flout the rules – but truck drivers need to know what those rules are. A clear policy should be drafted and signs posted if dash cams really are not allowed at the border. Stay tuned, I’ll share the US response as soon as I get it.
James Menzies is editor of Truck News magazine. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 15 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies. All posts by James Menzies