We’re now into our sixth year since the amended Canadian hours-of-service regulations came into effect on Jan. 1, 2007. Remember those heady days? I remember being impressed by the sleep research that had been done leading up to those changes.
I felt at the time they were much needed changes and they made a lot of sense. A driver would be able to operate based on their circadian rhythm and reduce fatigue by getting a better quality of sleep/rest. It was a good plan on paper.
But even though the intent was to benefit the driver, I can remember twisting myself in every direction that first year to accommodate the movement of freight.
It fell to drivers (and safety departments) to adapt the new rules to the existing business model. I can remember the general sentiment being, “Well, you can’t expect shippers and receivers to change how they do business overnight. They’re our customers after all.”
As a consequence of how these rules were implemented, we drivers continue to love to hate them. The one-size-fits-all application doesn’t work for all drivers. The rules often hinder the efficient use of a driver’s time, which ends up adding to their level of fatigue. Is it fair to say we were victimized by a piece of legislation that was originally proposed to make life better and safer for the commercial driver and for the public we share the roads with?
I think it probably is. In fact, more and more drivers are endorsing the use of electronic on-board recorders to enforce these rules in order to bring the rest of the industry in line. Now this is only my opinion, based on my experience and feedback from other drivers – but I think it paints a fairly accurate picture.
So what happened? Why did we not benefit from all the years of research focused on the driver? Why do we continue to struggle with this legislation today? I think it is because of the lack of driver feedback at the planning stage.
For the last three years or so, I have been participating in a couple of transportation health and safety groups. I’ve been attending monthly meetings as much as I possibly can and offering a driver’s perspective on the topics being discussed. One thing quickly became obvious to me: I am often the only driver in the room.
So, when it comes to raising driver concerns about pending legislation or rule changes that affect them, drivers are often represented by proxy only, in the form of a company’s safety and compliance department.
Despite the best effort and intentions of all the other parties involved in putting forward and implementing rules that affect drivers, those rules usually come up short in the eyes of the commercial driver.
There are over 300,000 active commercial drivers in Canada. That’s a big number. With so much at stake, am I the only one who finds it unusual that drivers are grossly underrepresented when it comes to how they are governed?
How would the hours-of-service rules look today if drivers were represented in the planning stage in the same proportion they are represented in the industry? I think things would be different in a very positive way. But we’ll never know. What a shame.
By being involved in the planning and implementation process, people usually take ownership of the final product, which helps to ensure a positive outcome. By standing apart from the process, people tend to feel the final product has been foisted upon them. So it’s not surprising that rules originally intended to empower drivers have left them feeling victimized.
So what is going to happen as the collection of data is expanded to in-cab monitoring? Is this the direction telematics is headed in? Is this how high-risk drivers will be identified as technology rolls out?
How will it affect the morale of the existing driver pool and does it matter to the next generation of drivers, or will monitoring technology simply not be a big deal to a new generation of drivers brought up living openly online?
I think it’s very important to the industry as a whole that we find a way to include a high level of driver feedback about data collection. If drivers don’t buy into this expanding technology that monitors their behaviour, it could present another roadblock in the recruiting and retention of professional drivers.
I don’t have a ready-made solution to resolving this communication problem, but it is becoming more important than ever that drivers be involved in the planning process. If drivers truly want to feel like partners in the process rather than victims of circumstance, they need to step up and take a seat at the table.
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