Testing Event Recorders

August 11, 2014

Testing Event Recorders

 As I write this, it is the first week in August and we are in the process of installing 30 Event Recorders by Lytx for a 90 day test which starts September 1.  I thank the drivers who took time to understand what this product does and agreed to participate in our test.  You are truly “Raising the Standard.”  To learn more about what event recorders do (and also what they don’t do….much of the scuttlebutt in the driver web is just wrong), our Vertical Alliance Group Safety Training (VAGST) will be available soon for you to review.  If you don’t know how to access it, just contact our Safety department and someone there will help you.  I think you’ll be impressed with what technology can do today.

What are we hoping to accomplish?  Technology is coming quickly to safety in trucking.  The hard question for us is not whether to use it, but which one to choose.  There are so many safety and compliance products out on the market today; it takes careful testing to learn what new products can do for ACT and its drivers before we make large financial commitments.  We also learn things along the way.  We don’t know how much time it will take with event recorders to coach and review what is captured with our drivers.  For example, we are told that each event recorder only records certain types of events and that a typical driver will only generate around 3 minutes of video per month.  One of the benefits of event recorders we hope for is the opportunity for us and the drivers to see what types of events are recorded so we can all learn from them and get better.  That is really what this is all about…protecting ourselves and getting better.

One of the biggest benefits is protection, both for you and ACT.  We know that in all cases of a tie, the truck driver and company will lose in this litigious society.  We also know that there are many ambulance chasing lawyers, frivolous lawsuits and people don’t always tell the truth, especially when they can profit from lying.  But ferretting out the truth in the backdrop of a bad accident can be expensive and difficult as injuries can be severe and emotions high.  Remember recently that accident of a Walmart truck and the famous comedian?  The media immediately broadcast across the country with certainty that he was violating hours.  Prosecutors prepared indictments announced on television.  It wasn’t true.  In a bad accident it is often the case of “accuse first, get the facts later.”  With event recorders, what actually happened in an accident is recorded so the truth is undeniable. We think that is to our mutual advantage.  We want to focus on what caused the wreck instead of all the extemporaneous stuff lawyers like to use as red herrings to heat up and inflame emotions.  A picture is worth a thousand words.  I think in most cases, the truth is our friend.  We believe, based on our experience and industry information, that most wrecks are caused by the passenger vehicle, not our truck.  Being able to prove that and exonerate ourselves can save a lot of time, money and stress while protecting both of us.

You wouldn’t believe how much time we spend on the small fender benders, the truck stop wrecks.  With the hours of service restrictions and electronic logs, truck stops have become more and more congested and the odds of you getting hit in a truck stop are increased.  For company trucks, we need a way to find out who did it to get our money.  The video will save time spent arguing with adjusters.  Independent contractors, you have a $1000 deductible on your physical damage insurance which comes out of your pocket if we can’t find the person who hit you.  We try to help you collect it but often the person who hit you disappears or just denies it.  The event recorders we are testing hibernate when you are asleep, but wake up to record when someone hits you.  How much time and money would this save us?  A lot!

Some drivers prefer to purchase a camera in a truck stop.  I am against this and ask drivers not to use them.  In any accident we have a duty to preserve all evidence.  If we (or our driver) lose evidence, we run the risk of being accused of spoliation.  Under this doctrine lawyers can ask the jury to consider that the evidence lost would be against us, even if it wouldn’t have been.  Why?…because we lost the evidence.  This needlessly gives the plaintiff attorney something inflammatory to use against both of us before a jury rather than simply talking about what caused the wreck.  We haven’t tested them and I do not have a confidence of what these truck stop recorders do and how we could control the evidence they generate in a 300 truck fleet.  Heck, we don’t even know who has them and who doesn’t, if they are installed correctly and much about the brand.   I would much rather pay for the Lytx event recorders, provide them to drivers at no charge, and be able to control the device and preserve the evidence to protect us both in every case.

What do we expect to see?  I guess we’ll find out in the test, but I suspect some things which are captured on event recorders are, as we lawyers like to say, “res ipsa loquitor” a fancy Latin way of saying “The thing speaks for itself.”  We’re told that they are developing a phone app which would allow drivers to do self-review.  For example, if a driver runs a red light because the driver didn’t slow down enough to stop in time, I think we can all learn pretty quickly what we did wrong and what needs to be done in the future to fix it.

But some things may not be so obvious.  For example, let’s say you do not tailgate, but over the years you have developed a habit of following too closely.  You are unaware of this because you have had no way to measure the close rate between your truck and traffic ahead.  You could be endangering yourself and others, while not even knowing it.  This device could present an opportunity to learn and get better.  Wouldn’t you want to know this?  Any responsible person would.  We do know that too many of our accidents have been rear-ender’s.  These are often very bad accidents.  I would be thrilled to be able to fix our habits so they never happen.

Let’s say you are a great experienced driver with over 1 million accident free miles.  Does this mean you are never unsafe?  I don’t think so.  All drivers can be either safe or unsafe depending on the situation they are in at the time.  Many accidents today result from distractions.  We see it all around us with the four wheelers every day.  Distraction can be caused by stress.  Anything that takes your eye or mind off the business of driving is a distraction.  Event recorders will capture this.  Some distractions may not be obvious to you.  One that is not so obvious is when you have distraction which is caused by some stress in your life.  It is certainly possible that a very safe driver with a good history could have something on his or her life, with way too much time to think about it, and as the problem gets larger, they become distracted and are not the safe driver they have always been.  It could happen to anyone.  This gives us an opportunity to intervene.  If this happened to you, wouldn’t you want to be made aware of it, and perhaps shown a recording before you get into trouble and hurt yourself or someone else?  Of course you would…or you wouldn’t be the good driver that you are.

The small thinking is to say…”They’ll catch me doing something wrong and I’ll be in trouble so I don’t want them.”  Kind of sounds like your children, doesn’t it?  Really, that is not what this is about.  What it is about is protecting you and ACT, while finding ways to learn and improve.  Seems to me, if this works, that would be the RIGHT thing to do.  Think about it.

Safe Trucking, Tom