Red Light Cameras in 2013: What They Mean for The Trucking Industry

Red Light Camera

When it comes to accidents involving tractor-trailers and smaller vehicles in the United States, there’s often an unspoken assumption that truck drivers are to blame most of the time. The idea that four-wheel motorists are most often the victims of careless truck driving in these accidents is apparent both in the media and public opinion. According to new research, however, the reality is the opposite.

Similarly, red light cameras have had similar misperceptions among the public and the media in recent years. After exploding in popularity over the past ten years, data was able to prove their effectiveness in capturing images of collisions and traffic violations involving semis and personal vehicles. And though many carriers and owner-operators are quick to question the cameras’ degree of success, it’s true that these traffic wardens have helped save lives and lawsuits.

Learn more about how red light cameras are affecting haulers and shippers after the jump. >>


Red light cameras originally had one purpose: to stop drivers from running red lights. With the camera trained on a specific point and coordinated with the electronic signaling system,  those that run red lights have their license plate photographed and are sent a fine.

The red light cameras have been highly effective for catching these rule-breakers, and have also caused drivers to slow down in many urban areas. Most cities that have installed red-light cameras have also seen a significant decrease in speeding tickets.

However, contrary to popular belief, many of the cameras have found that the expense associated with installing and maintaining the cameras exceeds the revenue created with them. Not all city governments are able to use the cameras as revenue centers.


What do these red light cameras mean for truck drivers and shippers in America?

The cameras have been helpful at catching those drivers without regard for traffic laws, but have had the unintended side effect of incriminating truck drivers who are innocent.

Here’s why: The maximum weight by law for a semi-truck and full trailer is 80,000 lbs. Given freight capacity constraints, both carriers and shippers are incentivized to haul the maximum load.

Basic laws of mass and acceleration lead most drivers to take a much longer amount of time to come to a complete stop than smaller vehicles. As a result, there are times when drivers are unable to stop and must roll through an intersection for reasons of safety.

Although most drivers avoid urban routes and frequent stops at all costs, it’s often unavoidable at points of pickup and delivery.

Here’s where the red light camera comes in, but is unable to interpret the complexity of a truck driver’s stoplight decision-making.

Scenario 1) A driver does not want to go through the motions of planning a stop, so he or she rolls through the red light without slowing. Mission Accomplished. Red light cameras catch the violation in progress.

Scenario 2) It’s equally possible that a driver may be begin to slow but is ultimately unable to come to a complete stop before the light moves from green to yellow to red, requiring the driver to roll through the intersection at a slowed pace. Red light cameras then work against the honest driver who made a quick mistake, but ultimately made the right decision for safety.

The life expectancies of some red light camera programs have been drastically shortened. Given the high expense, maintenance, and third-party management of the cameras, some councils and citizens have voted to dismantle existing traffic camera programs.

City governments are realizing they can not afford the expense of maintaining the cameras, and citizens are voting against the traffic cameras. Some cities have used the revenue from red light cameras to fund hospitals and charitable organizations, while others continue to use the revenue for less attractive city operations. In some cities, yellow lights have been used to rig to trick drivers into thinking they have enough time to cross intersections and then are penalized. This game of rigging lights makes it even harder for truck drivers to stay on the right side of the law when trying to stop.

To find out more about red light cameras along your lanes, check out this excellent resource for red light cameras throughout the United States.

Red Light Cameras in 2013: What They Mean for The Trucking Industry was last modified: September 20th, 2013 by
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