Disconnect, and rediscover joy of the open road

by Al Goodhall

A few weeks ago, I was camped out by the side of a lake in Northern Ontario between the towns of Wawa and White River. It’s a peaceful spot, just shy of the halfway point between my home terminal in Southwestern Ontario and our company’s terminal in Winnipeg.

It’s peaceful to the point of not having any cell or data service available. You’re truly off the beaten technology path when parked here, as I discovered when I woke to a flat tire on my tractor on Sunday morning. I had satellite service to the truck, so I was able to communicate with dispatch and get a tire repair service out to me – but it took a few hours. The funny thing was even the local repair service didn’t have cell service in this area, which was a gentle reminder to me about the accessibility of our technology infrastructure.

The thing is that we, as truckers, can still choose to turn everything off if we want to. The world doesn’t end as we know it when we make that choice.

There is much discussion at the present moment of the impending deadline for electronic logging devices (ELDs) in our trucks. One of the key points in opposing this technology is the negative impact it has on the driver, because it enforces the 14-hour cap on our workday.

It’s hard for people outside the industry to get their heads around that point. Exactly why would anyone be upset with having their workday limited to 14 hours? The answer to this, of course, is simple. Truckers are being forced to work within a set of rules designed to protect them, ostensibly, while continuing to perform their daily tasks as they always have done. You can’t just change the rules that affect daily life without changing the culture that goes along with it. That takes time.

So, waking up to a world that I could not contact through my ever-present handheld device really drove home the point that the future of being constantly plugged in to the global network is totally dependent on accessibility for everyone, everywhere. How ironic that accessibility to the Internet and constant contact is a cause of daily stress whether or not you’re connected.

But that’s a choice we make, not something that is imposed on us. I constantly see drivers heading down the road with their Bluetooth headsets on, engaged in heated discussion over something or other. Throw the damn things into the overhead and enjoy the drive.

Turn your ELD-enabled satellite service off by killing the volume so you can’t hear it and turn off the screen so you can’t see it. It will still work behind the scenes while you go about your day. This is the best way to take back your freedom, or at least your perception of it.

Put your devices on airplane mode, turn off your data or roaming feature, send your incoming calls to voicemail. Being constantly connected takes away your sense of freedom – it doesn’t imbue it.

There is nothing like driving in parts of the world that leave you disconnected from everyone and everything. It is a reminder of what it is to stand alone and the sense of personal independence that comes along with it.

I spend a good deal of time thinking about how technology, especially artificial intelligence, is going to change the world for my grandchildren. I believe we are at a turning point in our social evolution and how we deal with one another and the world around us. The need to be able to step away from the hive is one of the keys to our health and wellbeing. That’s what waking up to a flat tire served to remind me of.


Al Goodhall has been a professional long-haul driver since 1998. He shares his experiences via his blog at www.truckingacrosscanada.blogspot.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @Al_Goodhall.

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