Keys to dash cam acceptance are transparency and incentives

Transparency and incentives are key to gaining driver acceptance for dash cams (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Within the trucking industry, opinions on installing dash cams have oscillated between skepticism and conviction. On one end of the spectrum are drivers, who are resistant to dash cams, as some believe they infringe on their privacy. Fleet managers feel otherwise, because dash cams can help promote safer driving and provide immunity in courts.

“Change and uncertainty always cause stress. Drivers can sometimes assume the worst about any change. I think that goes not just for drivers, but for all employees,” said Eleanor Horowitz, safety product marketing manager at Samsara, a visibility analytics solutions company. “Drivers can be skeptical about having cameras in their cab because they might believe it could spy on them and be able to listen to conversations.”

This perspective could reasonably induce anxiety. This could lead drivers to be scared of dash cam videos being used by the fleet management for punitive measures. However, dash cams are a proven tool for fleet safety. Horowitz pointed to studies that suggest dash cams reduce collision frequency by 50% while lowering accumulated costs by over 80%. 

“There are clear, tangible benefits to installing dash cams,” said Horowitz. “It is really about how fleet safety managers roll out these dash cams after alleviating driver concerns. This can be done by being really transparent about what the dash cams are for and how they are focused on safety.”

To convince drivers of the need for dash cams in their trucks, Horowitz proposed three best practices for fleet managers to follow when they intend to roll out dash cams. “The first one is transparency. The second would be about creating a positive feedback loop by providing incentives and rewards. The third would be about showcasing the benefits of dash cams – specifically by exonerating drivers from blame,” she said. 

Horowitz recounted an instance where she was in a town hall with drivers who assembled at the request of their firm’s city manager. The manager proceeded to show them how the dash cams worked, what they recorded, and what they did not. 

“Such demonstrations help drivers understand dash cams better. Sometimes, CEOs and safety managers pilot the dash cams first in their own vehicles, to show drivers that there is nothing to be worried about,” said Horowitz. “Such transparency goes a long way.”

Providing incentives and creating a positive feedback loop with drivers can help fleets seamlessly transition to adopting dash cams. “Some of our customers use safety scores that we calculate using data from our dash cams to identify the top drivers in the region. They reward them with cash bonuses, gift cards, trophies, or some company-branded items like leather jackets,” said Horowitz. 

Nonetheless, the fundamental utility of a dash cam is to save commercial drivers from being automatically blamed for any road-related incident. As nuclear verdicts are widely prevalent, with courts ordering trucking companies to pay millions of dollars in damages, having evidence on what actually transpired is priceless. 

“With the dash cam, you have proof that makes it very easy to defend drivers if they are not in the wrong. This is the most powerful motive to get driver buy-in for dash cams. There are several examples where skeptical drivers agree to install dash cams after seeing a driver from their own fleet being exonerated from blame based on dash cam evidence,” said Horowitz. 

In an internal survey, Samsara found that over 50% of its dash cam customers used footage to exonerate innocent drivers and were saving an average of between $5,000 to $25,000 on every incident. Customers spoke of how skeptical union drivers who had been in the business for decades lost their resistance to dash cams after they understood how a few minutes of footage could mean everything. 

“Dash cams are now an integral part of building a broader fleet safety program,” said Horowitz. “And at the end of the day, dash cams not just protect drivers, but also help fleets drive down costs and make operations more efficient.”