The price for a decent dash cam is less than $100 these days. These devices can capture hours of video and audio that can document a crash or an act of vandalism. But, a dash cam can also be used to capture a technician working on or test driving a vehicle.
Just go to YouTube and search for “mechanic on dash cam.” It is pretty embarrassing in some cases how it captures a technician abusing a customer’s vehicle.
Some of the videos just capture techs making fun of a customer’s vehicle, bad modifications or dirty interior. Some of it captures the usual banter heard around shops, including the profanity.
Is it Legal?
Recording pictures or video in public is a right protected by the First Amendment. So, it is legal to use a dash cam to record whatever is outside the car on public roads.
Recording inside or outside the car can be another matter. In some states, drivers with dash cams can record audio inside the vehicle without consent. In some states, occupants need to be informed that they are being recorded.
Is it legal for a dash cam to record in your shop? Technically, it is in violation of employees’ and shops’ rights for a customer to record inside of your business. They need to have your permission because it is private property. Other states have “eavesdropping” laws that say the person recording the conversation must be present.
Don’t feel comfortable with an owner recording what is happening in your bays? You can ask them to turn it off because it might interfere with battery testing equipment or maybe your shop’s camera-based alignment equipment.
Do not freak out and try to disconnect the camera. If the customer sees the last few seconds of video are of a panicked technician fumbling around to disconnect a dash cam, it will put a lot of doubt into the mind of the customer. Some courts may see it as destruction of evidence.
Is the Dash Cam an Opportunity?
If you are a shop owner, dash cams can make sure your technicians are on their best behavior. Their presence can help to keep horseplay and excessive socializing down in the shop.
If you see a dash cam, it is your chance to talk to the driver. Talk them through your inspection process and show them what you are doing. It might look a little crazy at first, but the customer will appreciate it.
But, if a customer has an intermittent problem that did not happen while it was in for service, ask them to save the clip.
Dash cams are not a fad like CB radios and GPS navigation. Many OEMs are just starting to make them available as an option on some vehicles, with many more planning to make it a standard feature.