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Go ahead, take your best shot


Must admit, I’m feeling a bit like a pin cushion of late. My column last month criticizing the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) for what I strongly believe is an irresponsible opposition to the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate in the US, generated more than a few angry retorts from readers.

There were those who thought that since I don’t drive for a living, I don’t have the right to be commenting on things that affect the lives of those who do. True, I don’t drive for a living but I have been writing about transportation issues for more than 25 years and in that time I’ve spoken with hundreds of fleet owners, managers, technology specialists, legislators, enforcement officials and more than my share of company drivers and owner/operators. I would say that makes for a well-rounded view of issues. And never when approached by a professional driver who wanted to complain about a new technology or a regulation did I think he or she shouldn’t be heard because they weren’t engineers or legislators.

There were those, such as Johanne Couture, who think ELD technology is an “added financial burden to small carriers.” Sorry folks but the “financial burden” argument is used every time a new technology is mandated – by carriers, drivers, and OEMs, depending on what is being mandated.

I’ve heard this argument so many times, for so many different occasions, I can’t take it seriously. The sky is falling, the sky is falling, is the cry that goes out every time. Except the sky doesn’t fall.

There were also those who insisted carriers will use this technology to force tired drivers back on the road if the logs show they still have legal driving time available. I agree that’s possible. But I’m willing to bet those who attempt to do so would be the same carriers who think nothing of asking drivers to keep two logbooks so they can cheat the system now.

But enough from this “irresponsible moron,” as one of you affectionately called me. Let’s hear what others have to say about ELDs. John G Smith, editor of Private Motor Carrier, in his column last month wrote that evidence from current ELD use actually shows a drop in form and manner violations, such as missing lines and blank cells: “Such problems accounted for 16% of violations during 2016. Those who failed to keep a duty status up to date accounted for 8%. Both of these situations were more common than the share of drivers who were behind the wheel eight hours after their most recent off-duty or sleeper time (7.43%) or driving beyond a 14-hour duty period (4.37%).”

Gerald Janosik, a driver with Gorski Bulk Transport, a carrier which has been using ELDs for several years, wrote a letter to the editor about ELDs for our sister publication, Today’s Trucking. In Janosik’s own words: “From my experience, ELDs reduce paperwork for the driver and eliminate mistakes. Overall the DoT on both sides of the border tend to wave trucks through more often with ELDs.” Janosik added: “ELDs can prove to be very positive if you work for the right company and if, as a driver, you are open to change.”

Which gets us to the heart of the issue: resistance to change. I remember when I first started writing about transportation more than two decades ago, the rage was all about the threat of Big Brother intrusion into drivers’ lives brought by satellite tracking. No driver wanted that technology in their cab. How many of you now would do without it?

Call me crazy but 25 years from now I think you will be saying the same thing about ELDs. In the meantime, feel free to keep on telling me otherwise


Lou Smyrlis

Lou Smyrlis

With more than 25 years of experience reporting on transportation issues, Lou is one of the more recognizable personalities in the industry. An award-winning writer well known for his insightful writing and meticulous market analysis, he is a leading authority on industry trends and statistics.
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14 Comments » for Go ahead, take your best shot
  1. Carolina says:

    Great blog ! Not sure if “irresponsible Morton” is what goes through people’s mind whenever anybody introduces change that been said proper on-boarding of new technology and proper communication strategies are key.

  2. rick gregoire says:

    OK,your crazy. EOBR’s have certain merits.Since they keep track of your hours of service,they pay any fines incurred,right.Wrong! I’ve used both and found you do save some time as,if properly used,you can actually squeeze every second of on- duty time allowed.Problem is at the end of the day,there is no flexibility for finding safe parking and since we don’t get paid by the hour and safe parking is at a premium these days,we always have to stop short and that costs me money. Every body tries to stretch the log to account for weather and dist. center delays,but eobr’s won’t allow that. I believe if this technology is so vital for the future of trucking,then revamping the pay scale to keep pace with it is just as vital.It’s time to end the one way street to the future.

  3. Bill Cameron says:

    Let me guess….the ‘irresponsible moron’ comment was anonymous? If people want their argument to be taken seriously, have the spine to identify yourself.
    Maybe there’d be a lot less opposition to these devices if we ‘met in the middle’ of hours of service rules. Getting rid of the 14 hour window, or at least expanding it, would allow for getting to a safe location when unexpected delays happen. Don’t change the available work hours, just add some flexibility in the ‘work window’.

  4. meslippery says:

    Do you want to buy my pick up truck?
    You have to its better than what you are driving now, I know just ask me.
    Dont be like that I know best, you need this this. (Do not think for your self)
    We will mandate the best for you.

  5. meslippery says:

    Bill Cameron I dont want to insult anyone at lest right now.
    But anonymous comments are not always wrong.
    Just because you want to make every one play to your tune Lou The lack of good jobs and if there were more choice no one would look to
    truck driving;(sad)
    Who in our world needs a job? and will find a reason to put up with this $hit.
    Wish we could farm it out. How about TFW ? Cause Canadians wont work as truck drivers for less than Min wage.
    So 1980 pay? 2016 Pay Adjust for inflation? Lou s wage and a truck drivers wage?? For Lou s sake lets hope his has improved. and when he is going home to something he really want to do and some computer says no
    fun for you tonight I know best.
    Well until that happens to Lou and dont think it wont. Thats what people
    think its just truck drivers. Till its you turn now.

  6. Angelo D says:

    “Revamping the pay scale” implies that truckers were making more money before ELDs which can only mean that the only way this was happening was by cheating.
    Revamping the HOS to allow a driver to get to a safe location is also a loose assertion because you should be able to plan or pre-plan where you may be in the next hour.
    As for wages, they’re will be drivers less dedicated who will walk away from trucking due to ELDs – citing it as the last straw. I call it attrition and the wages will have no choice but to get better.
    Perhaps that’s just what this industry needs to progress to a more “Proffessional” existence is an evolution because the past 30 years on paper.
    No more human error calculations and all the same intended HOS of the past – what’s not to like about legal truckers not having to compete and cheat against workaholic truckers who would mortgage their long term healthy for short term gain while taking risks.
    You’ve got a firm grip on the issue – Stick to your guns.

    • rick gregoire says:

      “Revamping the pay scale” means adjusting it to represent proper compensation for services provided.Revamping the HOS to represent the real world is impossible because the real world has too many variables to be regulated.That’s why the price of new truck has risen 50% since I bought my last one in 2008.The manufacturers felt they needed to adjust their pricing to reflect the times we live in.On the other hand my earnings are not allowed to reflect the times we live in.I have no interest in working longer hours or falsifying a log just to attain proper compensation.I am a professional driver and I know my job and do it as the real world will allow me.

  7. Rick says:

    Hey Lou, how would you like to be on the road heading home and sit in bumper to bumper traffic crawling along, every second knowing that a clock is ticking and when it says STOP, you have to STOP, that’s it…pull over…NO HOME TIME FOR YOU TONIGHT. Sit in your car for the next 8 – 10 hrs on the side of the road. Oh and turn the damn engine off to maybe save the world a 100 years from now too!! For no other reason than Know It All people like yourself and David Bradley and say so.

    Think about that the next time you are driving slow in the snow, or the road is closed, or its a long weekend and traffic is lined up for hours, or you are at a border crossing and for no particular reason you are delayed for an hour or two or three (oh but that border officer can go home when he’s done), and all you would like to do is make it home to see your son’s hockey game tonight or tomorrow, or to rest at home instead of at a loading dock all weekend because you missed the 3:00pm Friday load time by 1/2 an hour….

    … and all the while because some On Board Recorder is watching your every minute, and regardless of how slow traffic is moving, or how long that customs officer’s careless attitude delays you … when the OBR says “STOP”, … you won’t get to where you could have, or needed to be. And you can sit there wide awake on the side of the road, in a tin can, alone, while your kids grow up without you, and your friends move on with their lives and activities …. because a bureaucrat and an “I Know Whats Best for You” type and their OBR control your destiny.

    All this for a measly few pennies a mile.

    I wonder why wouldn’t every little boy want to grow up to be a trucker now…

    Hurry up with all those driverless trucks. You are the reason society is going to need them.

  8. meslippery says:

    Rick I agree but Lou’s mind is made up.
    What you just said is true.
    None of what you said affects Lou.
    EDLs make paperwork simple for the office staff, you know
    the ones who go home at 5:00pm

  9. Dutch van Noggeren says:

    What a lot of changes in the last 50 years. I started driving in January 1966. No driving school, I could have used one but there were none around that I knew of. As a teen, I drove farm trucks and construction machinery and knew that I wanted to be around machinery as much as possible. In my early years I learned a lot about driving by getting advice from older drivers when we stopped for coffee or lunch. I ran for 4 or 5 years with no log book, because I stayed in Ontario and Quebec and as far as I know there was no enforcement. Then I began to drive in the U.S. where log books were required and enforced. I used paper logs until about two and a half years ago when I was forced to use elogs. When we were all on paper logs, there were a few guys who violated the rules. Actually most of us bent or violated the rules to an extent, especially in the U.S. Our Canadian rules are much easier and more realistic to work with. When the U.S. had the 10 hour maximum, if you were driving long distance, at the end of 10 hours I and most of the guys I knew were still fresh and good for another few hours, so we cheated on our log sheet. But most of us didn’t drive when we were truly fatigued. And when we did stop to sleep, we might wake up after 6 hours and be raring to go. And if we got a little tired in the afternoon, we’d pull over for a couple of hours. Well, that’s all ended now. With ELD’s and the 14 hour rule, you go whether you’re rested or not; you don’t stop for a rest in the afternoon, even to avoid rush hour traffic, nor do you have time in the middle of the day for a big meal. Just stop and grab some unhealthy fast-food, take it to the truck and eat it while going down the road. I’m on ELD’s now and except for the fact that I never have to figure out my hours, I don’t like them and wish they would go away. When I’m on a trip, I want to drive as many hours as I legally can, then shut down for the required 10. I try to plan my final stop as close as I can to my legal limit, but when I pull into the truck stop and there are no parking spots left, then what? Do I pull out and park on the street, where it could be quite dangerous to do so? Or do I drive through the truck stop continually, waiting for some one to leave in an hour or so? Or do I go down the road to the next stop? Oh right I can’t do that because the ELD will put me in violation. I’m over 70 and you may think I’m old, but I try to keep up with technology and I’m not resistant to change; that is if the change makes sense, and in my opinion the 14 hour rule and ELD’s just don’t make sense.

  10. Tim Pate says:

    I have been in trucking industry for 25 years now minus a couple here and there when I escaped. I find the new hours if service exhausting. It forces me to go when there are times a nap would be great. The old way if you napped you woke up refreshed, could log it and carry on. Now the clock starts and it’s a mad dash till it stops. Impossible to shower, sit down and have a meal, have a nap if needed just go go go… Sure you can eat and shower when truck is stopped when times up but think this way.. Tell your office employees to get to work and at or before the 8th hour they have a half hour break. Then just keep working till time is up. Eat and shower outside those windows of time. Oh and if a customer screws you over at the dock and you run out of hours for day too bad. Nobody cares that you are nowhere near food or rest rooms etc just lay down and wait for clock to start again. I know I am not the only one who feels this way and this electronic log is not a change for the good. Yes the rates should go up everybody says but let’s not kid ourselves this is trucking industry and there will always be someone down the street who can do it cheaper ” on volume”… It amazes me that suits who know nothing of trucks and what it takes to operate them can make these dopey laws. Look at the 105 speed limiters. All that accomplished is trucks nose to tail door to door for endless miles of confusion and generally making unsafe conditions for everyone because everybody drives to the max and won’t lift. Now instead of one truck in the ditch there is generally two more beside him….

  11. Wim Hondius says:

    Hi Lou,

    A little note from an import truck-driver. I’m working in Canada (and the USA) for over ten years. Born and raised in The Netherlands.

    One of the reasons I decided to come over was the digital tachometer in Europe. Probably something that will also come in Canada when ELD is not good enough anymore, when there is a need for even more control.

    Another thing… Speed limiters… Trucks are governed on 85 or 90 clicks (yes, kilometers, not miles). With no passing limitations (or not passing at all) for trucks the situation on the roads was really not funny. All trucks creeping forward on the right lane, little cars having problems leaving the highway, lots of irritations…

    Yes I know, the Ontario Minister went to Europe to see how speed limiters worked. It worked great, she said… The same response you are giving to ELD’s. Everybody willing to change will love it…

    Well, the problem is, we don’t want to change. Things work great for us. We sleep when we get tired, we drive fast when it’s safe, slow down when it’s busy. We’re professionals. We like to have our freedom, make things work our way. And there will be bad apples in between, be sure about that but DOT could easily pick them out if they would go after it…

    Like I said, I came to Canada over ten years ago. Things were still nice over here but there’s been lots of changes in those ten years. I got a job that gives me plenty of time to work within my hours. An electronic logbook is no big deal, I might have to adjust a little bit. I can live with speed limiters too, as owner operator I don’t see the need for going fast when there’s no need for it. The real problem is that the fun and joy in my work is slowly dying. Driving truck is soon to be not much different than the job in the factory. That’s the problem. I don’t think that you, Mr Bradley and all CEO’s of giant trucking company’s understand that. Or perhaps you do but what does it matter to you..??

    ELD’s save a company with a hundred trucks 3000 dollars a year (just some fantasy numbers). That’s what counts. Joy and pride in your work not. Just do your job, driver. Drive for 10 hours in your daycab truck to the other terminal, sleep for 10 hours in the dorm and drive back with another daycab… It’s safe and very effective and cheap…

    Joy, fun and pride. Soon there will be nothing left of it…

    Regards,

    Wim Hondius
    Mayfield NB

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