Why dash cams are increasingly popular

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Last month in this space I put forward the opinion that fleet executives and enforcement officials were missing the boat in regards to adopting social media to tap into the deep knowledge base that professional drivers possess. This month, let’s take a look at a couple of performance monitoring technologies that are being widely adopted in the cabs of today’s commercial vehicles and how we (drivers) are reacting to them.

The first is the electronic on-board recorder (EOBR) and the second is the dash cam. In the broadest terms, both of these platforms do the same thing: they measure driver performance. The other common thing they share is that neither one is currently required by law, but both are being widely adopted. The EOBR is seen by many drivers as being an invasive technology since it is installed by the carrier to monitor individual performance.

The benefit to the driver is not always clear. If only a portion of the total driver pool is monitored this way, the playing field is not level so a sense of unfairness results from its use. Dash cams, on the other hand, are being adopted by drivers – not just carriers. Dash cams are seen to balance the playing field, because they not only measure the performance of the individual driver but also the performance of every other driver on the road that the driver comes into contact with.

Let me make full disclosure here, and say that I have been using an EOBR for the past five years. So I’ve been subject to the performance monitoring that goes along with the full-featured EOBR that my carrier uses. Besides tracking my on- and off-duty time, it also measures hard brakes, rollover prevention, idle time, percentage of time spent on cruise control, percentage spent over speed, etc. This software allows the carrier to track individual trucks and drivers in all of these categories. At this point I have not installed a dash cam in my truck, but I don’t see myself making it through 2014 without doing so. There are just too many benefits to having a dash cam as well as an EOBR.

As a driver, I don’t think you need to make a choice between an EOBR and a dash cam. I believe these two technologies complement one another and your best option is to have both.

Let’s say you’re travelling down a two-lane highway and I’m approaching from the opposite direction. As I approach, my rig drifts a foot over the centre line and forces you to take the shoulder to avoid a collision. Your dash cam records this, you’re ticked off, and so you contact the authorities and report this dangerous driving. The images from your dash cam allow authorities to track me down.

Another dangerous driver will be brought to justice. But when records from my EOBR are pulled, they show that I have a stellar driving history. My driver’s abstract is also squeaky clean, along with my CVOR. What comes to light is the fact that I’m human and I screwed up. The EOBR provided some context to the incident recorded by the dash cam.

Of course, there are two sides to every coin. The EOBR could have shown the opposite. I may have rarely been in compliance with hours-of-service laws, my driver’s abstract may have read like a novel and my CVOR could have been its sequel. In that case, I’d deserve to have the book thrown at me.

So the dash cam captures driver error at any point in time but it doesn’t always provide context. Many times, a driver’s poor performance is the result of negligence – but not always. Using both monitoring technologies provides balance and can give us the big picture. It’s pretty hard to go anywhere these days without having your actions captured on video, whether you agree to it or not.

It seems we are all fair game in the public space that we live in. It would not surprise me if all vehicles are equipped with video recorders as standard equipment a few years down the road. I would not want to be without an EOBR if this should come to pass.

Neither dash cams nor EOBRs can prevent collisions. But can they improve safety? They definitely provide a record that we can use in training, educating, and mentoring drivers to improve safety on our public roads – not just for commercial drivers but for all drivers. That should be our goal rather than simply going after everyone that makes a mistake.

This is another example of how important it is to have open and honest communication between drivers, carriers, and law enforcement.

Legislation imposing the use of EOBRs is still pending, but will in all likelihood come to pass. Will legislation in regard to video recorders in commercial vehicles be far behind?

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