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.
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. All posts by Ray Haight