April 15, 2016 -They’ve been called the latest in safety innovation, a cutting-edge monitoring method that ultimately saves lives, and an effective means to significantly reduce liability.

And on the other end of the spectrum? They’re described as scarily intrusive, another way for companies to micromanage their drivers – and they cross a line of privacy that is getting increasingly more blurred in this digital age.

A divisive technology, they are nevertheless the newest thing in trucking – so what’s the deal with driver-facing cameras?

How They Work

Driver risk management systems – or dual camera systems – comprise of one forward-facing camera trained on the road and another turned into the cab focused on the driver. As they – and the truck – are rolling, they capture video and audio while recording time and location with a GPS. They also typically have an infrared function so they can properly record in the dark.

Data is fed into an onboard system, which carriers can access through a web portal. Footage of “risky” events – such as quick lane changes or fast stops – are actively and immediately sent to the carrier. Alerts can also be set up for drivers exhibiting signs of being over-tired or distracted, such as drooping eyelids or frequent nodding of the head.

Over time, companies have the opportunity to use the collected data and analytics, paired with audio and video, to create a comprehensive driver snapshot.

How Prevalent are They?

Although the concept of dash cams is nothing new – just watch any episode of “COPS,” for example – dual camera systems are beginning to experience more widespread adoption in the industry. Two of the larger providers in the space are SmartDrive and Lytx, both based in California.

Such systems were given the stamp of approval from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in 2012, and larger fleets such as Martin Transportation Systems and Swift Transportation have begun to test and adopt them – ultimately providing positive reports that are prompting more carriers to consider them.

The Case For

Early adopters have called them vital tools for their business.

One of the most significant benefits has been decreasing liability. According to the FMCSA, the average cost of all large truck crashes is $91,000 – which increases to $200,000 if there are injuries, and $3.6 million should the crash result in a fatality. However, having real-time video evidence has helped to exonerate companies in crash lawsuits.

The systems also help to decrease fraud and increase security – much like a home-based system, scammers and thieves are warier when a camera is rolling –and they have proven to be an invaluable teaching tool, as well. Video and audio footage allows carriers to identify areas where their drivers might need improvement, and provide coaching and re-training.

The Case Against

Not everyone is buying it, however.

Many drivers say the systems provide an over-excessive – and unnecessary – amount of control and severely invade their privacy.

Adoption will sow seeds of discontent among drivers, some say, making them feel micromanaged and creating an impression that their employers don’t appreciate them, or worse, don’t consider them trustworthy or capable.

What will really promote good driving habits, they say, is simple recognition and praise for successfully completing what is a difficult, demanding and stressful job – not a reactionary, Big Brother solution.

What are your views on driver-facing cameras?