Are driver-facing cameras legal?

An increasing number of trucking companies are requiring in-cab cameras that film drivers — but is it legal to do so?

Driver-facing cameras have been unpopular in the trucking community for years. They leave drivers with the uneasy feeling that they’re being watched by their employer. Many truckers even argue that driver-facing cameras violate their right to privacy, since a driver’s truck is often also his home where he eats, sleeps, and spend free time.

So is an employer legally within his rights to require an in-cab camera system?

The short answer is, yes, especially if you’re in the U.S. Employers are not violating any specific law when they require driver-facing cameras. Inward facing cameras are already widely legally deployed throughout the trucking industry and have faced few legal challenges to date.

Here’s what else you need to know —

Driver-facing cameras might not work like you think they do

Trucking companies that utilize in-cab camera systems routinely assure drivers that they are not saving video continuously. Most camera systems are only activated by a triggering event like hard braking or speeding and provide employers with a few seconds of video before and after the event, companies say.

Trucking companies are increasingly pushing for the technology to reduce liability in the event of a crash and to cut down on driver distraction.

Canadian truckers won a landmark battle against driver-facing cameras in 2017

In 2017, the Superior Court in Quebec upheld a ruling that Sysco Quebec was not allowed to install driver-facing cameras on its trucks, finding that a driver’s right to privacy trumped the company’s attempt to increase safety through the installation of the Lytx DriveCams.

The legal battle began in 2012 when Sysco Quebec installed both driver and outward facing cameras on its fleet of trucks. Though the cameras are only supposed to permanently record a handful of seconds before and after a triggering incident, the camera is always recording the driver and overwriting the recorded data. This did not sit will with the company’s drivers, especially given their claim that the cameras recorded randomly several times per day.

A union filed a complaint about the driver-facing cameras after drivers said that they felt intimidated and watched. Last year an arbitrator sided with the union and drivers and ordered Sysco Quebec to remove the driver-facing cameras.

Sysco Quebec complied, but filed an appeal, saying that they had a duty to promote health and safety.

The Quebec Superior Court upheld the decision of the arbitrator to keep driver-facing cameras out of Sysco Quebec’s trucks. The court pointed out that Sysco Quebec could use other, “less intrusive” methods to promote safety, including increasing driver training and surprise checks on drivers.

Though the court ordered the removal of the inward-facing cameras, the ruling only applies to Sysco Quebec. However, it opens the door for similar cases against driver monitoring in Canada.

California AG ruled in favor of driver-facing cameras for disciplinary purposes in a major 2014 decision

In 2014, then-California Attorney General Kamala Harris ruled that employers may take disciplinary action against a truck driver employee based on in-cab video provided by a third party company

“Continuous videotaping surveillance of truck drivers during their on-the-job driving does not constitute a misdemeanor under Labor Code section 1051 where the video file is inspected by a third party and used as a basis for discipline by the driver’s employer, provided that the third party is an agent of the driver’s employer who is videotaping and inspecting the file for the sole benefit of the driver’s employer, and that the file is furnished only to the driver’s employer,” Harris wrote.

Some companies might pay you more if you use them

Notably, Illinois-based GP Transco announced an unusual incentive program in February 2020 that made driver-facing cameras voluntary while offering a 2 cent per mile pay increase for drivers who choose that option. More trucking companies could follow this lead as drivers remain reluctant to allow the technology into their workplaces — and their homes.

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