Why drivers need to keep an open mind

by Al Goodhall

For some, social media is like chocolate cake, you just can’t get enough. Algorithms tailor our social media newsfeeds to surround us with the sweet taste of our own ideas and beliefs. But that sweet fatty diet is poison to us in the long run.

Our bodies need variation in our diet with a focus on healthy foods to stay healthy over the long term. We need to apply those same rules to our media diet.

By consuming only the sweet memes and the tasty clickbait, we poison our mental environment that in turn affects our ability to think clearly and objectively about the issues that are important to us.

The debate raging around electronic logging devices (ELDs) is a case in point.

On one side, we have the opinion that ELDs are an invasion of our personal rights and freedoms and should not be mandated.

On the other side, the argument is made that road safety hinges on all trucks having these devices in place, thereby leveling the playing field by making sure that everyone is playing by the same rules.

There does not seem to be any middle ground in this debate, yet most drivers fall between these two extremes.

All drivers must keep a daily log of their activities, there is no debate over that point.

Large corporate carriers insist on increasing their technological presence in the cab using invasive technologies and independent drivers insist on maintaining paper logs that can easily skirt the letter of the law.

Both sides pay lip service to the core issues of public safety and driver safety by building an echo chamber for their cause through social media.

This is not an issue that has only two sides.

In today’s connected world, drivers need the data that technology provides to protect their rights and their safety more than ever.

They do not need legislation to ram it down their throats. Drivers need education and training.

The legislation should be focused on protecting a driver’s privacy, not solely on a corporation’s right to impose practices that benefit their bottom line.

There is a middle road and it is about ethics and morality, not about the law.

For six years I have been using an ELD. It has brought benefits to both the company I work for and for myself. It has not hampered my ability to earn a living.

I run just under 3,000 miles every week (five days) in both Canada and the US. The company has been able to use the data it captures to provide an incentive program that has not only increased profits for the company but has provided additional income for the majority of its drivers.

We are one of the few companies our size that maintains the highest CVOR rating available for the past three years running and has also been voted one of the top 10 companies to work for in Canada by its drivers, also for three years running. Is this because an ELD law has been mandated? Of course not. It is because of the honesty and integrity the owners bring to the table.

Drivers are partners in the business, not tools of the trade. Technology has been and continues to be incorporated in a way that is beneficial to all. Are there growing pains? Yes.

Could these gains have been made operating in a digital world with paper logs and no technology to capture the data that guides that ethical decision making? Of course not.

I agree wholeheartedly that as drivers, we need to band together to speak out against the imposition of technology that focuses solely on the financial return to the corporate investor at the expense of the health and wellbeing of the individual driver.

I do not support legislating ELDs across the board.

The small independent trucker has increasing access to technology to compete in today’s market just as any other small businessperson does.

Government should be making sure that that access remains open and is expanded to entrepreneurs by not imposing costly fixes that benefit only the large corporations.

If independent truckers want to continue to operate with analog systems like paper logs in the digital world that we live in, then let them. In another decade this business practice will dry up as so many manual systems have.

They will not be cost-effective and will not provide the information needed to compete in the modern marketplace.

We need an educated well-informed driver pool to make sure this industry remains healthy, not just for the driver but for the companies we work for and contract our services to.

Drivers need to diversify their sources of information and refrain from making decisions based on Internet memes, sound bites and headlines.

Open your mind, research opposing opinions, engage in friendly debate and ask why, why, why? The health of our industry depends on it.


Al Goodhall has been a professional long-haul driver since 1998. He shares his experiences via his ‘Over the Road’ blog at http://truckingacrosscanada.blogspot.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at @Al_Goodhall.

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