Video Recording of Pre-Trip Inspection: Will it Increase Potential Liability?

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Given the wide availability of video technology, there appears to be a growing contingent of truck drivers who record their pre-trip inspections using their cell phone cameras.  Recently, one of these drivers was pulled over for having a burned-out taillight.  The driver informed the officer that the taillight was working when he started the trip.  Not surprisingly, the officer did not believe him.  That is, until the driver showed the officer video proof the light was working several hours earlier.  The officer was so impressed with the driver’s diligence that instead of giving him a ticket, he followed the driver to the next exit so that he could get the light repaired.

While this video saved the truck driver a citation, what impact might these videos have on lawsuits involving trucking accidents?  It would certainly be helpful to have proof the vehicle was working properly prior to the accident.  On the other hand, if the vehicle was working properly before the trip, could this then create an inference that the truck driver was distracted, tired, or otherwise negligent?  More importantly, one would want to avoid having recorded proof that the truck driver did not conduct a proper pre-trip inspection and missed a potential problem with the vehicle.  Additional questions would arise with respect to the length of time such videos would need to be preserved.

For now, however, it seems as though these truck drivers may be in the minority as far as recording pre-trip inspections.  But, their desire to avoid citations could raise interesting litigation issues that might have important implications in the future.

By Natalie J. Kussart


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