Vehicle Cameras And The Law – Driver Facing Cameras
More and more fleet operators are installing vehicle cameras in their vehicles. However, many fleet managers and owners are also looking to install in-cab/driver-facing cameras. The benefits of this are pretty obvious; in the event of an accident you can very easily show that your driver was blameless and was paying full attention at the time of the accident. It also provides a record in the event of altercations with the driver or break-ins to the cab.
This is however a double-edged sword. Of course in most cases, the driver is blameless and the video can prove that to be the case, but in some cases they are not. In these cases the recording may show that they were distracted, using their phone, asleep or otherwise at fault. The footage therefore becomes the prosecution’s key witness.
It has been shown and reported that fitting in-cab cameras has a strong positive effect on driver behaviour, eliminating the bad habits that can cause accidents and therefore making the fleet safer. BUT…despite all these benefits, drivers and unions often perceive the use of in-cab cameras as negative because they have been used in the past, by unscrupulous business owners, as a way to exploit drivers. They have also also been seen as an invasion of privacy; particularly for long-distance drivers who effectively ‘live’ in the cab during their down time on these long trips.
If you wish to install in-cab cameras, you must therefore be aware of the negative perception and work to overcome the fear and stay within the requirements of the law. Here are 5 things to do:
You Must Make Drivers Aware
One of the biggest no-nos of camera use is not making it 100% clear that they are being used in a vehicle. If there is a camera in the cab, it is especially important that clear signage is included in the cab so drivers and passengers know they are being recorded. Most judges would take a dim view of a company trying to make use of footage in a case against a driver where they were not aware they were being recorded. Covert surveillance is possible, but only under specific circumstances where you believe dishonest activity is occurring, such as theft. However, if the activity only occurs on a specific truck or shift, then the covert cameras would need to be installed only on those trucks or for those shifts.
We regularly hear from fleet owners/managers that drivers remove, unplug or try to block cameras. During our discussions, we then discover that the drivers were not consulted in the decision to install in-cab cameras. Their lack of consent can create distrust as to the motives for the installation of said cameras. Conversely, when the reasons and benefits for the cameras is explained and drivers agree to their use, the cameras remain in all their un-tampered glory.
Create a Camera Footage Policy
One of the best ways to gain consent is to provide an official written policy for how the camera footage will be recorded, stored and used. Make sure all staff understand who is the Video Data Officer (i.e. the person who will initially review and download the footage) and who will have access to the footage and for what purposes. It should also include sanctions for tampering and how infractions will be handled, whether they lead to an accident or not. For instance, minor infractions may only lead to a discussion with the fleet manager or some form of remedial training.
You MUST take privacy seriously. Obviously this applies to the use of the footage itself, so you must only use the footage for the purpose it was originally intended. You could find yourself fined for improper use of camera footage. However, there is a more practical aspect with regards to camera placement. If there is an expectation of privacy at specific times, for instance when the driver is resting on a long-distance trip, then the camera must either automatically switch off when the engine is not running, or the placement must be such that it does not cover the areas of the cab where drivers take their rest.
The easiest way to ensure consent for use of cameras has been gained is to incorporate it into employment contracts. Existing employees can sign the new version of the contract incorporating the use of cameras and it has the added advantage of ensuring that all new employees effectively give their consent upon signing the contract.
Handled correctly, good drivers will embrace this technology as a way to provide them with additional protection against fraudulent and no-fault claims. Reassure them on privacy, the use of the footage and how it will only benefit them, and your fleet will be safer forever.
This is the second in a series of articles on the subject of vehicle cameras and the law, however, should you have any concerns about the implementation or use of vehicle cameras, we would suggest you consult with your solicitor. If you would like to discuss your vehicle camera needs, be sure to contact us as we’ll be delighted to answer your questions and provide our expert advice on the various options.
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