Lately, I have been talking with a few of my fellow drivers on the topic of electronic on-board recorders (EOBRs), trying to get an objective, man-on-the-street, view of things and how the future legislation will affect us all. My goal was to just listen to what others had to say; I didn’t want to steer the conversation in any particular way, just to let things flow. So I took off my truck driver’s hat and wore my journalist’s one for a few days.
The results of my experiment astounded me. I chose a broad selection of drivers to talk to, company drivers for the big box carriers, lease-operators, local city drivers and some specialist drivers on heavy-haul and gravel trucks. This way I could get a fairly balanced view.
Unfortunately I never got a balanced view at all. I was left with the same impression by almost every driver. Even more unfortunate was that I had completely forgotten about the topic in question and the objective I had hoped to achieve from the general conversation.
It seemed almost impossible to have a conversation with anybody that I could call upon for a quote without issuing a Parental Advisory warning beforehand. F-bombs were thrown around like confetti. At first I didn’t pay much attention to it. After all, we’re big butch truckers. But the more it went on, the more disappointed I became.
How are we ever going to get anybody to hear our views when it appears that we cannot construct a sentence without swearing with every other word? There is no doubt that the question of EOBRs is something to bring out a passionate response, but surely there is a better answer than #$%@ that! How on earth can we expect to be taken seriously when we conduct ourselves in this manner?
Time and again I heard the same old story: “I told those (insert expletive of your choice) that I’m not doing that.” This was referring to instructions from dispatch or at a shipper/receiver.
Now, I took this with a pinch of salt at first, because I’ve worked on both sides of the desk. I used to work alongside drivers that were always telling me that they told the office to shove it, however when I moved into the office myself, I never heard so much as a peep out of them – all the bravado of the yard or truck stop had disappeared.
So it would appear that we say one thing, yet do another. Or do we? I have sat in on a couple of the listening sessions set up by the FMCSA. Listening to some of the questions and statements from the drivers had me wishing the ground would open up and swallow me.
Thankfully the F-bomb wasn’t dropped, but some of the questions and statements were very poorly thought out. Now don’t get me wrong, I applaud those that are passionate enough to actually take a stand and try to get their point across. At least they’re doing something. Unfortunately, the way their opinions were received is very troubling. I was not the only one there who was rolling my eyes.
The people at the FMCSA who are trying to bring in this legislation do this for a living. Debate is their bread and butter. They thrive upon it and quite often because of the legal jargon they use, the cause itself is completely lost. As long as the T’s are crossed and the I’s are dotted, they’re happy. We cannot hope to compete in a debate with these people unless we have all our ducks in a row. Sitting back and letting a few passionate people do all the work for us is not going to be enough.
We need representation from within our ranks. We cannot leave it to the likes of OOIDA, OBAC or the mega carriers to speak on our behalf. They all have their own agendas.
F-bombs aside, the overwhelming majority of drivers I have spoken to throughout my career have all said, in so many words, that nobody ever listens to them.
We’re a bit like a teenager in this respect; they too often complain that nobody understands or respects them. Well of course they don’t, nobody understands or respects grunts and tantrums, which is something we all need to remember if we want to be taken seriously.
The EOBR is just the beginning. Soon every aspect of our lives behind the wheel will be controlled by legislation. The people in the corridors of power have to justify their existence and because we have nobody speaking up on our behalf, we’re sitting ducks for anything they decide to throw in our direction. I think it’s about time we stand up, clear our throats and make them listen to us. We still have the right to free speech – for now.