When a professional truck driver has a working truck cam — also known as a “smart cam” or “dash cam” — installed in his or her truck, the video footage recorded can save him or her big bucks. How?
At the scene of a two-vehicle accident between a large truck and car, law enforcement listens to both drivers and looks at the evidence.
If the truck camcorder recorded what happened — and the video clearly shows that the accident was the car driver’s fault — the trucker has saved himself or herself
- a ticket and possibly a fine;
- points on his or her driver’s license;
- an increase in insurance rates on personal vehicles commensurate with the points; and
- the cost of any legal services rendered to help the trucker.
According to a December 2012 article, “the cameras serve as proof in case of an accident. Truck drivers are especially at risk for litigation. They’re big and imposing on the roadway, but the cameras show that the driver isn’t always at fault.”(1)
Let us look closer at the subject of truck cams (or truck camcorders) to learn more.
The type of device we’re referring to on this page is mounted inside a commercial motor vehicle — either on the dash or on the windshield — for the purpose of recording action going on in front of the truck.
There are other types of truck cams which may be categorized as “back up cameras” or “rear-vision technology.”
There are also systems of multiple truck cams positioned in various places around a rig. Those are topics for other pages.
We’re using the words “cam” and “cams” here to describe camcorders to record video, not cameras (as the quote from the article above implies) that record still photos only.
It is always helpful for professional truck drivers to have some kind of camera by which to take still photos of damage done to their trucks after an accident.
You will see that we listed a camera on our job-related packing list.
Years ago, some trucking companies recommended that drivers take an “accident camera” or “disposable camera” with them for just such a purpose.
As technology has progressed, more and more drivers are taking photos with digital cameras or even their cell phones.
Beyond the ability to take still photos is the ability to take “moving pictures,” a movie or video that can show how an accident happened.
This information can be vital in interpreting the still photos taken after an accident.
Of course, “stills” can be taken from videos.(2)
As much as we would like to see a photo of an actual truck cam mounted in an actual commercial motor vehicle, it’s been tough to find one.
The closest we’ve found — and we’re not even sure the photo was taken in a truck — was here.
If you have one of these in your truck, please share your photo, your story about how you came to have it and the ways it has helped you save money through the form on our Truck Operations page.
It has also been difficult to find truck-specific products listed on Amazon.com, but one product has both cars and “delivery trucks” listed in the title.
This listing is from Amazon.com, with which we have an affiliate relationship.
As Vicki researched dash cams on Amazon.com, one thing became apparent: there is quite a bit of difference in pricing.
Some units are well under $100 and some are $100 and up.
We would be very interested in knowing if a smart cam intended for a car will work in a truck or will have all the features that professional truck drivers need.
Videos Taken on Dash Cams
We do not necessarily recommend the products used to capture the videos embedded here, but have embedded them to show you how valuable having a truck cam in your truck can be. (You may want to turn off your computer’s sound to watch these.)
The SmartCam HD 2 Dash Cam DVR – Your Video Eyewitness (4:39)
SmartCam HD 2 Dash Cam DVR Car Camera Preview Video – Now in the USA (9:54)
DASH CAM CRASH COMPILATION (3:10)
Before You Buy A Truck Cam
When you’re looking to buy a camcorder to mount in your truck, here are questions to help guide you to the right one for you:
- How is the unit powered?
- If the unit is powered by 12-volt DC, does it automatically turn off when the engine is turned off?
- If the unit has a rechargeable battery, how long does the battery power the unit (in minutes) before the unit shuts off?
- What is the “life expectancy” of the battery?
- How many gigabytes of data or how much recording time does the memory card have?
- Once the memory card is “full,” will the device record over previously recorded video footage?
- What is the “life expectancy” of the memory card?
- Are extra memory cards easily obtained and from where can they be obtained?
- Can memory cards be used with other types of recording devices (like cameras)?
- How easy is it to save footage you want to keep and what steps do you have to take?
- Will you have to stop your truck to save footage you want to keep?
- How easy is it to transfer the footage to your computer and in what file format(s) may they be stored?
- What, if any, special cord or tool do you have to use to transfer video footage to another device and does it come with the truck cam?
- Does the unit have “night vision” capability?
- Does the unit automatically adjust from day vision to night vision or must the driver make that adjustment?
- Does the unit record in color or only black and white?
- Have there been reports of “pink” zones in videos taken on the unit?
- Does the unit record sound? Can that capability be turned off in case the driver receives a hands-free phone call?
Mounting the Unit in Your Truck
- How is the unit mounted in the truck?
- Have there been any reports of the mounting apparatus failing (like a suction cup not maintaining suction during travel)?
- How well does the unit “dampen” or remove road vibrations from videos, even on really uneven roads?
- What is the warranty for the unit?
- Does the warranty cover the entire unit or only a part of it?
- Does the unit have an extended warranty period?
- How well does the manufacturer honor the warranty?
Unit Dimensions and Specifications
- In degrees, how many degrees width does the lens capture?
- How heavy is the unit?
- How big is its screen?
- What resolution is the video footage?
- Does the unit “pivot” so that the driver can swivel the camera to an area other than straight ahead?
- Does the unit have GPS tracking attached to the video footage or does it have the capability to link in with a separate GPS unit?
- Does the unit in any way act like a “black box” that also records truck speed or other measurements?
- How does the unit compare in features with units that are marketed for 4-wheeled vehicles?
- When, if ever, does the unit or memory card ever go on sale?
Product Reviews Wanted
If you use a truck cam in your commercial motor vehicle, we request your review of it.
Money saving tip: As awful as it sounds, there are people who purposely set up rear-end accident scams or “staged auto crashes.”
One scam or technique that many truck drivers may be familiar with is “Swoop and Squat” — where a vehicle pulls over in front of another and hits the brakes, effectively causing a rear-end accident.
At one time, InsuranceFraud.org said that the price paid is: Record blemished; Victims terrorized, killed; Life disrupted; and Premiums rise.(3)
When traveling on major roads with at least two lanes of travel in their direction, some truckers prefer to travel in a lane that does not generally contain traffic merging in or exiting off.
Always be careful to observe “no trucks” prohibitions for these lanes.
Do not become overly confident that just because your lane isn’t closest to merging that you’re safe from potential collisions. Vehicles move in and out of traffic lanes all the time.
Be careful about using a truck cruise control in metropolitan settings, high traffic areas and during rush hour.
Even if you’re using a hands-free headset to talk on the phone, you may want to turn off your phone when driving in these same areas, so that you can concentrate on driving.
Be careful about taking another driver’s “word” for it that it is safe to change lanes.
This “word” can be conveyed by a hand motion or dimming of headlights.
Years ago, truckers dimmed their headlights as a courtesy to let other truckers know that it was safe to move over in front of them.
Unfortunately, in the space that is considered safe between two trucks, the driver of a small car can squeeze in between the trucks and attempt to pass on the right side of the forward truck.
If the driver of the forward truck isn’t alert, he or she may attempt to move back to the right, hitting the car and causing an accident.
This is at least one reason why fewer truckers are dimming headlights, because they do not want to be implicated in an accident of this kind.
An article we found in March 2013 states:
In at least three cases, Cargo Transporters has been able to use video evidence to quickly show plaintiffs attorneys the company was not at fault and drop what would otherwise have been a frivolous lawsuit, he says.
For a limited time, we are making our Truck Cam Comparison Sheet available as a free download, the link of which can be requested by email autoresponder. Simply type your email address in the form below to get the info instantly:
1. roadwaytrucking.org/truckers-you-are-being-watched/ (no longer online)
2. hooniverse.com/2012/05/24/truck-thursday-roll-over-play-dead/ (no longer online)
3. www.insurancefraud.org/scam-alerts-staged-crash.htm (no longer online)