"You just pray you make it home to your family safely": More trucking companies using tech to protect themselves and drivers – KION546 – KION

By Rob McCartney
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    OMAHA, Nebraska (KETV) — In light of recent court cases where the jury delivers what are called “nuclear verdicts” trucking companies are stepping the technology they use in their big rigs.
Hill Brothers, based in Omaha, has installed cameras and other event-recording technology to document exactly what the drivers experience.
KETV Newswatch 7 rode with over-the-road driver Kameron Cayson as Hill Brothers demonstrated some that technology, which is similar to what is found in many newer cars.
If the driver is following too closely to another vehicle, or if a car cuts them off, there is a visual and audible alarm in the cab.
“So, you notice I was too close to him, that’s why it blinks and before I could even do anything the truck will brake itself,” explained Cayson.
There’s a different alarm if the driver changes lanes without signaling.
“There’s the noise. It lets me know that I’m not in the center of the lanes and I’m not signaling,” said Cayson.
A separate alarm sounds, and a light on the truck’s side-mirrors turns on when someone is in the truck’s blind spots.
“It’s going to let me know that this car is coming here because I’m merging. See that noise? That let me know that a car’s coming,” demonstrated Cayson.
Hill Brothers Safety Director Raul Soria said the stepped-up technology is being used across the country as companies try to protect themselves from nuclear verdicts.
“What we’re seeing is more and more routine fender-bender style accidents that it’s definitely giving us the information of what really happened at the time of the loss and better be able to defend our professional drivers and our company against these frivolous lawsuits,” Soria said.
Kent Grisham, who heads the Nebraska Trucking Association, said the technology helps make sure the truck is operating as safely as possible, while also recording everything.
“So that when they do end up in a courtroom, if they end up in a courtroom, they’ll have their own data to help prove their case,” said Grisham.
He said there is also an overall economic factor involved, because if trucks are in crashes they aren’t on the road, which can squeeze an already-tight supply chain.
“We have to keep deploying better technology, more technology, so that the trucks are down less, so that the trucks are more productive,” said Grisham.
Nationally there are reports of drivers pushing back against the increased technology, saying it can be too intrusive.
An online poll by TruckersNews.com asked how truckers felt about inward-facing cameras indicated that 68% agreed that they “would never give up my privacy like that.”
See TruckersNews article here
Soria said Hill Brothers did see some of that reluctance to accept the cameras.
“Early on we did get some resistance, so they felt their privacy was violated, but what we found, pretty early on also, is that these event recorders aided in defending the drivers when they committed no error infraction,” said Soria.
He said the new technology has improved the company’s DOT Record-able Crash Rate.
He said the ratio of record-able crashes per million miles dropped from .45 to .10.
The technology also helped create friendly competition.
“This event recording technology creates a little bit of a gamification for them, kind of a competitive nature, where it gives them a daily score on how well they’re doing. They can take that score they can look at it by day, by week, by month and there’s a lot of just friendly competition amongst our drivers to see who can perform the best, get the best score. We do plan to incentivize drivers with the better performing scores,” said Soria.
“Just having the technology on board has kind of created a safer driver,” said Soria, “Alerted us to any risky behaviors and allowed us to intervene so we can prevent that collision from happening.”
Cayson said he doesn’t think it is an invasion of privacy.
“It’s only active when the truck is moving, so if I’m asleep or if I’m not dressed or whatever, the ignition isn’t on, so it has no reason to view,” Cayson said.
While the technology can protect the company, and protect the supply chain, Cayson said ultimately he wants it to protect him and his livelihood.
“Every day when we leave home as a trucker you just pray you make it home to your family safely,” Cayson said, “That’s what I’m trying to do, make good money and get home safely to my family.”
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