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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