Truck drivers should have cameras monitoring them: NTSB

By: Brad Gardner

US agency urges trucking companies to ensure in-vehicle cameras provide visibility of driver.

Truck drivers should have cameras monitoring them: NTSB
The NTSB says in-vehicle cameras must provide visibility of the truck driver.


US trucking operators that have in-vehicle cameras fitted to their trucks should make sure the devices keep drivers in their sights, the nation’s transport safety agency says.

A new study from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) backs the use of continuously-recording devices or event-based cameras that activate when an event occurs, such as hard braking or lane departure.

But the study, which examined two crashes where onboard cameras were used, found poor camera positions lead to inadequate visibility of occupants and that a lack of night-vision recording hampers data capture.

The NTSB says there are a number of shortcomings common among existing cameras, ranging from no view of outside the vehicle, no view of all seating positions, low frame rates and improper maintenance.

It has told the American Trucking Associations (ATA) and other peak transport bodies to urge their members to follow key steps when using in-vehicle cameras, including making sure drivers are monitored.

"Encourage your members to ensure that any onboard video system in their vehicles provides visibility of the driver and of each occupant seating location, visibility forward of the vehicle, optimized [sic] frame rate, and low-light recording capability," the NTSB’s study states.

"Fleet operators increasingly use video recorder technology to monitor their drivers. These video systems serve as a proactive tool to identify and reduce risky driving  behavior [sic], such as speeding, distracted driving, or drowsy driving."

The NTSB also wants camera manufacturers to be more proactive in ensuring customers install the devices correctly.

"Both original and subsequent vehicle owners would benefit from having information on how to properly install and maintain onboard video systems; however, few manufacturers make such information publicly available," it says.

The NTSB says manufacturers need to "develop written guidance for the initial installation and long-term maintenance of onboard video systems, and publish that guidance on their websites and in future owner’s manuals".

The NTSB says it can use footage from cameras to help determine the probable cause of crashes, to make recommendations to prevent future incidents and to reduce death and injury when crashes do happen.

Its study examined a 2012 collision between a semi-trailer and school bus in Florida and a 2011 crash involving a motorhome and semi-trailer in Nebraska.

The NTSB’s work highlights findings from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute on the benefits of in-vehicle cameras.

It found that the units, when combined with educational programs for drivers, reduced fatal crashes by 20 per cent and by 35 per cent for crashes where people were injured.

"Both continuous and event-based onboard video systems, along with a driver feedback program, may provide a long-term safety benefit for equipped vehicles," the NTSB says.

In Australia, Toll uses two-way cameras to monitor what is happening inside and outside its trucks.

The company’s NQX division has been using the cameras since 2011 and credits them for improving safety.

However, Toll faced opposition to the devices from the Victorian Transport Workers Union (TWU), which labelled the cameras an invasion of privacy.

Toll regional health, safety and environment manager Geoff Massey appeared at this year’s Trucking Australia conference to explain how cameras have helped Toll manage driver fatigue.


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