Regret for the Past is a Waste of Spirit

In life as in business we have the enormous benefit over all other creatures of being able to review the decisions we have made over our lifetimes. Some of us chose to dwell on past situations and second-guess our decisions and some of us choose to use past experiences, both good and bad, as lessons learned and apply them today’s reality.
Even with all the advancements made in trucking over the years it seems to me that we are perceived by the public an industry that moves very slowly when it comes to change. We get comfortable with our past and we stay there, innovation is not easily adapted unless it is wrapped in something that looks very similar to what we are using now.
The current situation concerning hours of service comes to mind, we as an industry will never be free from Crash and Public Citizen type scrutiny and other such safety groups funded by the railroads until the technology that is available in the market to measure fatigue is adopted in the truck. Any legislation that dictates to a human being when they will sleep and when they wont can never be fully effective, let alone legislation that was written in 1938 and really has not changed all that much.
If you think about it, consider how trucking has evolved since 1938 in almost every aspect it has changed but for two things that remain constant we still have a graph type log book electronic or paper and we still have a human being behind the wheel. The roads that we drive on have changed every component on a truck has changed, communication and monitoring of the truck has been invented. We have even recognized that the human being needs to be trained differently that in 1938 and hopefully FMCSA’s (Federal Motor Carriers Safety Association) entry level driver training rule will have some teeth in it when it finally comes out. We have different classifications of commercial drivers and separate specific testing of skills. What have we changed since 1938 on the logbook other than finally recognize that we all have this thing called a circadian rhythm, the confusing thing is that each of our circadian rhythms is a little or a lot different.
Technology exist that measures the driver’s eyelid closure rate which detects the onslaught of fatigue, Lane Departure Warning Systems (LDWS) monitor the location of the vehicle within the lane and alert the driver when the vehicle drifts from the lane. These are just two tried and tested technologies that are based in science that should be investigated with the end result of getting rid of log books and letting science take over to determine when an individual should be driving. A recommendation was made to FMCSA in 2005 by the (NTSB) National Transportation Safety Board to adopt the new technologies available, for example, a dashboard-mounted camera that tracks a driver’s eye and eyelid movements could alert a driver who appears to be falling asleep, NTSB suggested this to FMCSA six years ago.
Electronic on board recorders are nothing more than another way of ensuring that a driver complies with a format of driver monitoring from 1938. Why not push for the science to take over and measure how alert a driver is in real time. I drove for ten years there were times when I didn’t get two hours into a trip and I was bushed and just kept pushing myself, there were other times when I felt on top of my game and fully alert at the end of a shift that is now mandated as a time one should be in the bunk. Every driver knows what I am talking about, if I am physically alert after 10 hours and the camera in my truck that is focused on my eye movements says that I am still alert then I should be able to keep at it. Conversely if I had a little to much party the day before I was scheduled to go out and didn’t rest the way I should have before my trip and a couple hours in the unit says shut it down, then I should be shut down.
The governing bodies of trucking on both sides of the border suggest that driver fatigue is the number one factor in class eight vehicle collisions, ATA argues that the numbers used in the latest rewrite on HOS are inflated, this dance will never end. We are a safe industry that has made tremendous inroads in reducing all types of collisions. I truly believe that we have progressed so much on safety that the next series of advancements are going to be all the more difficult to achieve, and that we have to look at the science of individual performance if we are going to move forward as an industry.
“Safety is a moral imperative for the trucking industry” as eloquently stated by past TCA Chairman Jimmy O’Neil. We have the science, it is available it has been tested and it works. We need to use that science to come out of the 30’s and adopt it to our industry so we can advance to the next level of safety in this industry. The endless decades long arguments on HOS rules are not productive and in fact only serve to frustrate our drivers and our industry. If the same amount of effort had been spent on the science as has been on this archaic system of monitoring human behavior I wonder where we would be right now. Regret for the past is a waste of spirit, lets stop fighting over log books and EOBR’s and lets start talking about moving forward and letting the science lead the way.
Safe trucking

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Mr. Ray Haight has enjoyed a successful career in transportation starting as a company driver and Owner Operator logging over one million accident free miles prior to starting his own company. After stepping down from a successful career managing one of Canada’s 50 largest trucking companies, Ray focused on industry involvement including terms as Chairman of each of the following, the Truckload Carriers Association, Professional Truck Drivers Institute, North American Training and Management Institute and the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities voluntary apprenticeship of Tractor Trailer Commercial Driver, along with many other business interests, he enjoys a successful consulting business, also sitting on various Boards of both industry associations a private motor carriers. He is also Co-Founder of StakUp O/A TCAinGauge an online bench marking service designed to assist trucking companies throughout North America focus on efficiency and profitability within their operations.

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  • Since when is having a different point of view a “Waste of spirit”?
    Spirit; an attitude or principle that inspires, animates, or pervades thought, feeling, or action: the spirit of reform.
    Some how Ray you managed to drive all those years ago with out benefit
    of speed limiters and EOBRs. and lived to talk about it.
    Keep playing the safety card. The US was 70 mph then 55 mph now 70+ mph
    Would not 55mph be safer? yet the law has moved first down then up.
    So bad law can be changed. Think photo radar in Ontario.
    The spirit of a truck driver is not 9 to 5 nor is it “stop now” you are
    almost home.
    Like you say Ray when you drove you had a lot of flexibility and that does
    not mean you were not safe.
    In the spirit of freedom just say NO to bad law and bad ideas.

  • Hi Ray, I always enjoy reading your posts and usually comment if I have something to say, so here goes: Why can’t anyone within the industry realize that safety is an attitude and can not be legislated??! Driving away experienced drivers with unneccessary policy/procedure to deal with the problems of having less experienced drivers entering the industry is a never ending problem that multiplies itself over and over. The old hands that were in this business say 20 – 30 years back and had very few of the problems that are abundant today have retired or quit or otherwise moved to greener pastures and wouldn’t touch a truck with a ten foot pole today! Now, we have ‘drivers’ who, as a whole, don’t have a clue about what they are doing (other than steer their slippery plastic truck down the interstate) driving around, getting their every instruction sent via sattelite or other technology and can’t make a decision on their own about anything, just do what the office tells you, right or wrong, and don’t ever ask why or when or how much. These people seem to be very poor drivers at best ( just look at nearly every truck on the road today and you will see that the bumpers are bent, the exhaust pipe(s) is bent, the fenders are crunched, the fuel tanks have scars in them and the steps are missing or broken and the trucks are filthy and have burger and sub wrappers piled high on the dash!), not like in the 80’s and 90’s, when almost every driver took some pride in keeping their trucks clean and in good repair! I think that the big thing that everyone is missing, is that the money is not good enough to keep the right guys in the driver’s seats! If the wages or the o/o pay was appropriate, we would be able to retain a better quality pool of drivers. Also, once we had the quality drivers back in the seats, if they were paid the right amount of wages, they would not have to drive tired to try to make ends meet! No human being enjoys pushing themselves to stay awake when they are too tired to work! Of course there are exceptions to everything, but almost nobody wants to force themselves to have to drive or work if they are too tired to do so! If a driver had $25000 in the bank, all their bills paid, and got a check for $4500 every two weeks and could have 2 or 3 days off at home once in a while (when they wanted it, not when it was convenient for the company), they WOULD NOT DRIVE WHEN THEY ARE TOO TIRED! By the way, that would work out to around $100G / year wages, which is where many industry experts say the wages should be. It is the industry with all it’s B.S. like safety and productivity bonuses and other butt-kissing never-never plans that keep the drivers from getting ahead and all the other things that drivers have no control of, like customer waiting times, border crossing delays, weather and road related problems that consume a bunch of the driver’s time and prevent them from making a decent wage and also often the company relies on the drivers to make up the lost time by hurrying or driving when too tired to do so! Just pay the driver for ALL his time, you won’t have any problems with drivers leaving on-duty time out of their log book if you paid them from the log book! Let the driver decide when he is too tired to drive!! After all, he IS THE ONLY ONE WHO KNOWS IF HE IS TOO TIRED!! What a novel idea that would be- sleep if you are tired and drive if you are not tired and eat if you are hungry and use the washroom when mother nature calls! We used to have some drivers like that in the 80’s and 90’s, remember??

  • Yes MIlemarx I once worked by the mile then learned a valuable lesson DONT.
    But thats just me . the company I worked for would sometimes get stuck,(almost like like a trucker in a storm)And ask me to help. OK but pay me
    by the hour. OH we cant do that. (Sorry about your luck I am going home.)
    If if they really needed me I got paid by the hour.
    That was 80s 90s now they would just fire me and then say we have a Driver

  • Since FMCSA has extended the comment period for the proposed EOBR rule until May 23, there is still time to help shape what the final EOBR rule will look like. Please come over to – a pilot open government project between the Department of Transportation and the Cornell e-Rulemaking Initiative – to share your comments and have your voice heard. We hope you will check us out and join in the discussion.
    The Regulation Room Team

  • I guess, judging by the comments posted, I missed the point of the original blog. Oh well I suppose that is nothing new. I kind of thought it was about advancements and research and taking advantage of those advancements and research or the reluctance to take or implement them and that if we did some of the proposed legislation wouldn’t be necessary. Maybe you could rewrite this so I could understand Ray, afterall I’m just a truck driver when it comes right down to it. Please break this down for me in a way I can understand or send me an email explaining it to me in detail because reading what you have written in conjuntion with some of the comments I feel that although I thought I understood I must be mistaken.
    Sorry for my ineptitude, I truly wish I were a deeper thinker but I don’t understand why it can’t just be like it was when I started driving in this business back in 1975 better still I would like it to be like my father and uncles described it to me back in the late fifties/early sixties in their hay days. Any how if you could help me understand I would be greatfull.

  • Hey Stephen me thinks Billy is making fun of you.(Maybe its me)
    Really great ideas and technology will be adopted.
    Why the need for mandate by law? Dont want your competition to miss
    the benefits?
    Example: I am ABC big company I Govern my trucks @ 105 come on Government
    make sure my competition dose not miss out on the great savings to be
    had I dont want a edge on them. Pass a law.
    Or We think EOBRs are a great idea. pass a law so even if you dont agree
    just trust us and stop living in the past.

  • Yeah, I think you’re right, meslippery. Oh well, I may have missed the original point of the post like he says, but all I was getting at is the fact that, even with all the newest technology, the industry is on a downhill slide and the quality of the people driving on-highway trucks has eroded greatly in the past few years, about the same rate that technology has supposedly advanced. Therefore, perhaps we should not be so quick to flock to get into the latest greatest newest hi-tech equipment, policies, procedures, etc. and step back a bit and see why most really good drivers have left the industry. We should not just say “oh well, there is nothing we can do, that’s the way it is nowdays!” We need to do whatever it takes to get some good people back in this industry who took pride in their job, their equipment and their industry! It seems to me that the quality people started to flee this industry about 15 years ago, about the time that we started seeing all trucks come from the factory like cookie-cutter trucks, with ABS, auto-slacks, automated transmissions, DRL, one switch operates ALL the lights, round plastic hoods, weed burner exhaust, and fairings to hide the fuel tanks which never get polished. These trucks were meant to be able to be driven by low-skilled drivers and certainly that is now happening! I would much rather have a driver who knew when to stop and sleep, rather than have drivers who would need to be told by a dash-mounted camera which tracks eye movement that they should stop and sleep!

  • Just watching our Gov. news Channel CBC.
    If Charlie Sheen smokes we will fine him.
    I could care less but thats not the same as fining a truck driver
    for smoking in his truck. Unless he is getting $100.00 a mile.
    If all this new stuff is so great why are so many old timers looking
    forward to retirement?
    Sorry just the rantings of old fart.