In the trucking industry, the possibility of a driver being involved in an accident is a constant worry. In addition to putting people’s safety at risk and causing costly damage to trucks and cargo, accidents expose carriers to legal liability. For carriers, a worst-case scenario is going to court and getting hit with a nuclear verdict, an award that far exceeds the value of the actual damages resulting from an accident – and that can happen even when the other driver is responsible for the crash. Too often, truck drivers are assumed to be at fault for accidents, even when they were driving at safe speeds, observing traffic laws and following safety regulations. But there is a tool that can help exonerate drivers and protect carriers from potentially catastrophic verdicts: commercial fleet dash cams.
Video Protects Drivers and Carriers
Piecing together why an accident happened and who is at fault (or who bears the bulk of the responsibility) can be a long, complicated process – and the final determination of who is responsible isn’t always accurate.
“When it comes to the trucking industry, basically they look at it at first that it’s the truck driver’s fault,” says Mike Powers, director of fleet safety at Byrne Dairy in New York. “They look at the driver first, being in the bigger unit, and then they try to piece it together.”
An analysis by American Trucking Associations finds that the overall crash rate for trucks is nearly 30 percent lower than that of passenger cars, and the vast majority of fatal truck-car crashes are the fault of car drivers, not truckers.
Still, the number of lawsuits and the dollar amount of verdict awards against trucking companies increased more than 51 percent annually between 2010 and 2018, according to an American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) report, which also notes that huge verdicts are occurring much more often.
Dash cams provide video footage that shows exactly what happened in a crash. If a truck driver is not at fault, the video will reveal that. Coupled with other data recorded by fleet management technology, such as speed, sudden breaking and swerving, dash cam video can be a powerful piece of evidence to exonerate truck drivers – or, at least, limit their liability – in a crash and shield companies from nuclear verdicts.
And when a commercial driver does bear some responsibility for an accident, video evidence from a dash cam will help the parties involved more quickly reach a settlement, often reducing costs. The ATRI analysis found that the longer a case goes unresolved, the more expensive it will ultimately be for a carrier.
Additional Benefits of Fleet Dash Cams
Along with providing evidence should an accident occur, dash cams bring other benefits. A dash cam that sends real-time video clips via cellular network when safety-critical events happen on the road, provides fleet managers with insights into driver behavior, improving their ability to effectively coach drivers. Video footage also can be used to help reduce insurance claims and repair costs. Finally, dash cam footage can help carriers successfully have preventable accidents removed from their CSA scores through the FMCSA’s Crash Preventability Determination Program.
Norm Ellis, EROAD’s Executive General Manager, Enterprise, sums up the benefits of dash cams: “Video of drivers’ actions behind the wheel is critical for coaching, for understanding safety events and accidents and for helping fleets protect their drivers and their businesses in case of an accident.”
Download our white paper How Dash Cams Protect Your Drivers and Your Business for a lot more information on nuclear verdicts against motor carriers, how dash cams can exonerate drivers and other benefits that dash cams provide.
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Luke is a writer, editor and journalist with more than 15 years of experience. His constant goal is to provide valuable content that helps people understand complex concepts, solve problems and make informed decisions.