Friday, December 27, 2013

Lawyer Repellent: Video Documentation

The past few months have gone by rather smooth. Thanks in no small part to a good Dispatcher and Planning Team. There have not been any incidents, disasters, or problems over the past few months. With only two notable exceptions.

A 4-wheeler called Crete Safety to file a complaint against me. It took little more effort on my part than sending in my Dashcam footage of the incident to get the complaint dismissed. I have the option to press charges against the other driver right now. Because of what's on the Dashcam footage. Ironically that would not have been possible had he not left his contact details with Crete's Safety Department. Not gonna -- just saying.

The other thing is, I've been having significant difficulty getting to sleep and staying asleep. It doesn't have anything to do with Sleep Apnea. More has to do with the Winter temperatures. And also I can't keep my mind off the Video Games coming out next year. Grand Theft Auto V for the PC and Tom Clancy's The Division. I'm also getting pretty stoked about buying a Bushmaster ACR-SD with my tax refunds soon.

So anyways, let's get down to business...

MY DASHBOARD MOUNTED CAMERA

"Training and Documentation make for the best Lawyer Repellent."
 -Dave Davies, one of my firearm instructors


Folks keep asking me about what Dashboard Mounted Camera ('Dashcam') I use. I have been planning on writing a dedicated Blog about Training and Documentation (aka 'Lawyer Repellent'). And/or a YouTube video. But, I just haven't gotten around to it.

I use KCI Communication's SBX-1100.

I looked into buying a Dashcam 3 years ago after several near-misses and accidents (not involving me). Then one day in Nashville, TN. I came close to rear-ending a 4-Wheeler that was weaving in-and-out of lanes. He got in front of me and slammed on his breaks to make room for his next lane change. And then he nearly got rear-ended again by another truck in the next lane.

After the Nashville incident I told myself  'Okay - this shit is insane! I AM getting a Dashcam on my next Hometime.' I whipped out my laptop that night and started doing my research. There were not as many Dashcams in 2010 as there are now. So the decision to buy the SBX-1100 3 years ago would not necessarily be same decision I would make today.

It's important to write about my must-haves. So you all can hopefully duplicate my decisions when you go shopping for your own Dashcam. But, before you start reading this stuff just remember -- if all you can afford is a cheap cheesy $100 Dashcam from a truck stop DO IT! And get a better Dashcam later. I care about you guys and gals! So here goes:

Small Footprint and Adhesive Mount: I need my Dashcam to be as small and unobtrusive as possible. Every little square inch on the windshield is at a premium. Also, I'd stay away from any Dashcam that uses suction cups for the mount. As the they can break loose really easy in an accident. Find something that uses adhesive to mount to the windshield.

Wide-Angle Lens: The SBX-1100 had an option to order it with a regular 90° Lens (good for recording license plates) or a wide-angle 120° Lens for recording the 'Big Picture.' The way I see things, after an accident everybody is already going to know who was involved. So it's better to record the Bigger Picture of what happened. As opposed to recording the License Plates in the few hit-and-runs that ever happen.

GPS: Having a Dashcam with GPS Video Recording is critical. GPS gives you a Location, Time and Date stamp on the recording. And a lot of the software packages that come with today's GPS Dashcams use Google Earth. So you can watch the video playback and Google Earth side-by-side. As a byproduct of GPS recording, you also get speed and direction indicators.

Removable Memory Card: I have not found any Dashcams without a removable memory card. But, I still need to mention it just in case there are any. In any accident - involved or not - the investigators have the right to seize the video footage from your camera. So make sure it has a removable memory card. And that you have a spare card.

Most of what you'll find online and at the truck stops are single camera systems. But there are 3-camera systems where 2 more cameras are mounted near the fenders of your vehicle. Recording backwards down the driver and passenger sides of the vehicle. As well as 2- and 4-camera systems with an additional camera pointing at the driver with sound and video.

Having a camera pointing at you recording sound and video can be a very good thing. But can also be a very bad thing (see next section). If you get into risky driving circumstances because of bad weather conditions or aggressive drivers, you can start doing Narrative Driving. That's where you start talking and explaining what you're seeing, doing, and why you're making the driving decisions you make. Accident investigators love that. But, the Attorney(s) trying to sue you hate it - especially when all your driving decisions are good ones ;)

REMOTE DASHCAM VIEWING by EMPLOYERS

Like most of you who drive long-haul, I enjoy this profession because of the unparallelled since of freedom. Not having a boss looking over your shoulder; Essentially being our own boss. And having to be self-reliant for so many things. And I plan on retiring from this profession when I hit 'that age,' because of these things.

I'm obliviously a strong advocate for having Dashcams in our trucks. And I would think that any Truck Driver working hard to maintain a CSA-100 score on their Commercial Driver's License would want Video Documentation of their day. (Lawyer Repellent!) And I would think any of our Employers or Clients would appreciate that.

But, something is really bothering me. I've heard from 2 Truck Drivers now - one in my Orientation Class with Crete - about a camera system that allows an employer to log in and watch you via a remote connection. And those employers are harassing their drivers for such things as fiddling with their radio or GPS. Drinking their coffee. Even calling them up and criticizing them for their driving. It should not be of any surprise that those drivers are no longer working for those companies. I applaud the both of you!

For me, all it would take is one phone call or Qualcomm message harassing me about something my employer sees on the Remote Dashcam. Then I'd be stopping at the next nearest Safe Haven, whipping out my laptop, and filling out applications. There's a huge amount of competition by the top Safety-Rated Companies for the top Safety-Rated Drivers. And as CSA-100 committed drivers, we don't have to put up with that crap for any length of time.

There are also some pretty serious Constitutional issues about an employer having involuntary Remote Dashcams recording any part of the Sleeper Berth. The Court and/or Congress is - sooner or later - going to need to take a close look at this practice.

My message to the companies running these remote cameras: I'm going to be poaching your best drivers, and bringing them over to my company. Or at least talking them into leaving yours. Shame on you for treating drivers like that!


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