Addressing potential concerns with technology

by Dave Earle

In my last column, I talked about how carriers should consider the technology revolutionizing the trucking industry as an incentive to attract the young workers it needs so badly.

In other words, companies need to consider both the finer details of how tech works and will affect their operations, as well as the big picture – external challenges and advantages. With the labor shortage, embracing innovation can appeal to a new generation of workers. Just as important, carriers and trucking associations need to find solutions for any challenges perceived by regulators and the public to address a host of potential concerns.

Take dash cams, for example. Outward-facing versions are innocuous and growing more sophisticated and efficient. Many carriers and owner-operators already use these to help document road incidents. But inward-facing cameras are more problematic, even when used as a training resource or to provide evidence in a collision. B.C.’s Office of the Privacy Commissioner’s Guidance Document: Employee Privacy Rights, states, “Employers must carefully weigh the privacy harm when considering the use of video surveillance. A video camera cannot – and should not – replace adequate employee supervision.”

But, how does an employer “adequately” supervise a truck driver who works most of the time alone and in isolation?

Similarly, consider GPS tracking. There’s a need to balance knowing where your drivers and loads are with their right to privacy. B.C.’s Privacy Commissioner covers this as well in Employee Privacy Rights:

“… information gathered by an employer about an employee’s location and behaviour using GPS and remote sensing is considered personal information, not solely information about the device or vehicle…Certain circumstances may allow the use of GPS to map employee travel routes, manage hours of work, and ensure that employees drive safely and lawfully. These may require the knowledge and consent of the employee prior to their implementation and use.”

Businesses can collect accurate data to improve efficiency, but it’s also for the safety of their drivers. It’s up to the industry to show how the safety benefits of tracking outweigh other considerations. We need these technologies. The question shouldn’t be whether to use them, it should be how to make them serve us better.

Technological advancements often run up against regulations, and this is where associations come in. Wide-base single tires were only useful to the industry as a fuel-saving option when governments allowed weight parity with dual tires, a change the associations worked hard to gain. We continue to work on the permitting of automated tarp systems for bulk haulers, which is hampered by dimension limits. The solution is a limited 30cm allowance on a small portion of a trailer’s length. It’s up to us to explain how this will addresses serious ergonomic concerns for drivers.

We’re also seeing advances in hybrid drive systems for heavy trucks, but with increases to tare weight, thanks to the extra components required. For carriers to invest in these vehicles and benefit from fuel and emission reductions, we need governments to increase allowable weights and/or otherwise support their use.

Whether we’re talking about dash cams, ELDs, automated tarps, or hybrid/electric trucks, the industry must be open to new technology, framing the risk versus reward and preparing to address challenges and opportunities. And, ultimately, be ready to engage with regulators. The ball is always in our court. No one else is going to swing at it on our behalf.

Dave Earle is president & CEO of the B.C. Trucking Association. He has extensive experience in government and labor relations, occupational health and safety training and consulting, administration of substance abuse testing and treatment programs, and workers’ compensation. Earle holds a B.A. in communications/political science from Simon Fraser University.

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