Rocky Mountain Trucking LLC

More than half (56%) of passenger car drivers have felt unsafe driving next to a commercial truck in the past year, and 64% have witnessed unsafe driving behaviors among commercial truck drivers.

That’s according to a recent survey of 1,000 U.S. adults conducted by Dynata in August on behalf of vehicle lifecycle management company Solera that aims to uncover insights on the perceptions around safety in the fleet industry.

Those passenger car drivers’ perceptions revealed that they think technology can play a major role in making commercial drivers safer, among other things.

“I think there needs to be understanding going both directions. I think it’s important for the trucking industry to understand the perceptions of passenger vehicles on the road. At the same time, I think it’s important for regular passenger vehicle drivers to understand what is happening in the trucking industry in making the roads safer,” said Michal Yariv, vice president and general manager of strategic initiatives at Solera. “Talking about video-based safety and techniques that we have using things like artificial intelligence to identify distracted driving is a big part of our message right now around how we can help all the distractions in the cab and make the roads safer.”

Only 12% of respondents said they haven’t driven next to or near a commercial truck in the past year. Of the 88% remaining, more than two-thirds (69%) think truck drivers should be under more video surveillance while on the road, mainly due to aggressive driving.

Thirty-seven percent of respondents said they have witnessed aggressive driving behavior among commercial drivers. Other unsafe driving behaviors they have reportedly witnessed include using a cellphone/tablet while driving (30%); eating while driving (24%) and driving while drowsy (22%). The good news is 36% – the second-highest response – said they have not witnessed unsafe driving behaviors.

Yariv said video technology that can detect these types of behaviors and offer built-in driver coaching is the key to achieving optimum safety and overcoming these negative perceptions.

“Our first priority is always … getting drivers home safe every night,” she said. “So right now our focus is really on demonstrating to fleets how this technology can help because while there are a lot of fleets that are wholeheartedly adopting this sort of technology and see the benefit of it, there is still a lot of discussion in the industry about” how cameras may affect hiring.

Since camera technology came on the market, carriers have worried about how their drivers and potential drivers will receive it.

The Solera survey also asked respondents if safety-based technologies like AI driving tools and in-cab and road-facing video would lead more people to want to become a commercial truck driver – an important piece of the puzzle considering the majority of respondents (27%) said they believe the driver shortage is the most glaring issue for today’s commercial fleet companies, followed by safety on the road (26%), costs related to gas (20%), sustainability (12%) and efficiency of driving routes (7%). Of those 27%, 21% of respondents were Gen Z, and 16% were millennials.

Forty-four percent of respondents – 55% Gen Z and 53% Millennial – said they do think people would be more likely to become a commercial truck driver with the addition of more safety-based technologies.

“It’s interesting to think about how technology is not optional for (the next generation),” Yariv said. “They think about things in terms of technology, and when we think about younger generations wanting to do jobs that are technology enabled, I think having those technologies makes it a more inviting job prospect for somebody from these new generations.”

She said carriers are beginning to realize that they are going to have to bite the bullet and invest in these technologies in order to not only attract and retain drivers because of ease of use but also to aid in exoneration in the event of an accident and ultimately prevent accidents from happening in the first place.

Sixty-seven percent of passenger car drivers surveyed said they think video-based safety systems (in-cab and road-facing video recording) would have a positive effect on a truck driver’s ability to drive safety.

“I think people intuitively believe that which we know to be factually true, which is that when you put cameras in a as part of an overall safety program, you see safer drivers; you see better results,” Yariv said. “The reality is these technologies do make drivers safer, and if used as an appropriate part of the safety program and results are measured, it can save lives.”