Black boxes infringe on trucker rights

by Dave Holleman

Never has talk on the CB been so alive with controversy, never has there been so much heated conversation around the coffee table in the all-night diner, and never has there been so much division between the government and the trucking industry.

Of course, the talk all comes down to proposed U.S. hours of service regulations that were unveiled on April 25. But however heated discussions over the proposed 12-hours-on-12-hours-off plan have been, they pale in comparison to talk about suggestions that we need “black boxes” or Electronic On-Board Recorders to ensure compliance with the rules. And they would be required of long-haul and regional operations that run under this new framework.

It’s the same idea, remember, that was rejected by a working group of the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators.

It’s good to see Canada taking the high road in this arena of human rights. After all, this is an issue of human rights.

The idea of black boxes, or any other form of government electronic surveillance within or outside the trucking industry, flies in the face of what the U.S. Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms stand for.

I (and many of my peers) will never drive a truck with any sort of monitoring device that the government can readily access. Any such device is a blatant, unwarranted invasion of my right to privacy. Think about it. In a free, democratic country like the U.S., a convicted criminal cannot be forced to wear an electronic monitoring device without a court order. There is no way in hell that truck drivers should be subjected to electronic monitoring simply because of the occupation they have chosen to pursue.

Remember that, contrary to popular belief, truck drivers and trucks are not the safety problem on the road. They are statistically the safest vehicles on the highway.

The whole idea behind hours of service regulations is to monitor driver fatigue, so that proper rest can be attained. Logbooks are fundamentally flawed because they do not measure an individual’s fatigue; they simply measure how compliant a driver is. And as I have stated before, compliance does not equal safety.

The concept behind black boxes, along with their being a total invasion of privacy, is also seriously flawed because a black box monitors a vehicle and not its driver. And it’s flawed like the regulations themselves because they are only measuring compliance, and not fatigue. The government can mandate all the monitoring devices and regulations it wants, but these won’t make trucks safer.

Rodney Slater, the head of the U.S. Department of Transportation, has a mandate to halve the number of truck-related fatalities in the next 10 years.

But you know what, Rodney? Truck safety is a result of one thing, and that’s driver attitude. Professional attitude promises safe trucks. You cannot replace a professional, experienced and courteous driver with a reckless, un-professional driver who has an electronic monitoring device in the cab. Anyone who suggests that black boxes are necessary is naive as to how much a truly professional driver takes pride in his ability to safely drive his rig.

But while attitude cannot be legislated, it can most certainly be taught.

If regulators south of the border – or in any jurisdiction – want to make highways safer, they would not mandate black boxes or governors. Instead, money earnmarked for that technology should be invested into teaching drivers about the impact of a good attitude, and the ways it can be attained.

Automobile drivers seem to have the notion that they are entitled to their licence and drive like they can never lose it. This carefree attitude is rare among truck drivers because they know how important their licence is to their livelihood and families.

I love this job, and I love this industry. But if regulators think for one moment that I will throw my rights to privacy out the window – just so I can participate in this thankless occupation – they are wrong.

So very, very wrong.

I will park/sell/give away my truck long before I will ever compromise my rights.

If the industry is facing a driver shortage now, just wait until they shove black boxes down our throats. n

– Dave Holleman is an over-the-road owner/operator and monthly columnist in Truck News.

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  • It is not black boxes truckers need.. I have seen truckers frustrations in waiting times for loads and the dispatchers always blaming truckers for everything and pushing loads to the limit to “get there on time”…If anything now is the time to revolutionize the way truckers are getting paid… Amazing what a company will make off a trucker’s back and pocket instead of distributing the wealth evenly between the trucker and the company’s bottom line. I am shocked to say looking at the what the loads are priced at and what actually goes to the trucker who is the bread and butter of any company.. If the wheels are not turning the trucker and the company do not earn.. No wonder why the industry lacks so many bodies to fill trucker positions there are days the trucker is making less than minimum wage if they are sitting waiting for a load.. It is time the transport industry go after the companies to pay more so the trucker does not have to drive dangerously on roads just to meet loads…

    Compounding the fact truckers are fatigued because of wait times for loads, having being pushed to make delivery on time and frustrations and pressure cause the accidents on roads..Technology is not going to replace common sense and human intervention.. With every piece of machine trying to replace human thought or thinking can lead to more accidents not safety..I would rather side of human error than a computer error.

    Truckers wages have hardly come up over the years..This is a thankless job and mentally and physically draining.. If all the people who think a trucking job should not be paid more how wrong they are.. If it weren’t for the truckers who bring the goods all around the world to your door people would think of truckers differently if they did not receive their goodies. The world relies on the transportation of trucks from one distance to another and will always until they think of better way to transport. The trucking industry touches every facet and corner of everyone’s lives and should be appreciated instead of being looked down upon.True the days of the original stigma of a trucker is gone and while technology replaces the stigma, all and all the trucker’s job is still the same no amount of technology will change the way a trucker thinks or has to make split decisions on the road. Time for the trucker to demand more if they even think of passing the so called “BLACK BOX”.. Why because this little device will only hurt truckers wages and take home pay… Why should the trucker have to do all the work and suffer all the consequences??? Who does this black box benefit certainly not the trucker..