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Editor’s Comment: Should On-Board Computers Be Mandatory?

It seems everyone in the trucking industry has been weighing in on the ongoing discussion about mandating on-board computers in trucks. Some associations have touted on-board computers as an effective way of monitoring drivers' on-duty time and dr...


It seems everyone in the trucking industry has been weighing in on the ongoing discussion about mandating on-board computers in trucks. Some associations have touted on-board computers as an effective way of monitoring drivers’ on-duty time and driving habits.

Other groups have blasted the idea, suggesting they are a violation of a driver’s rights and may even promote non-compliance with hours-of-service regulations.

Clearly, there are two schools of thought on the issue and they both have merit.

I don’t blame drivers for feeling apprehensive about the use of on-board computers. Whether it’s your own truck or a company vehicle, the cab is your sanctuary and even a non-intrusive black box tucked discreetly under the dash can feel like an unwelcome pair of eyes watching your every move.

Having said that, on-board computers can provide crucial data in the event of an accident and that data could end up being your best friend if you find yourself in court. We all know the vast majority of truck-related accidents are not the truckers’ fault. It’s also common knowledge that juries tend to be unsympathetic towards truckers if they end up in court following a serious accident.

Having an on-board computer that clears you of any blame can be the difference between a multi-million dollar lawsuit and total vindication.

I recently had an interesting conversation on this subject with a veteran fleet executive who pointed out drivers can learn to accept on-board computers if management takes a carrot rather than a stick approach to implementation.

He suggested providing incentives for good drivers and even basing pay on driver performance which can be calculated through the analysis of black box data. He compared truck drivers to NHL hockey players and said the only players who would be opposed to the idea of tracking goals and assists would be those players who are underperforming.

“Would Jarome Iginla ask the NHL not to track and publish stats? I don’t think so!” he insisted.

He went on to suggest that anyone who creates a fuss about this data being collected and analyzed by a fleet is probably not the type of driver you’d want in your company.

It’s an interesting argument, but one that I’m sure many drivers still wouldn’t buy into. It’s still largely a matter of principle for many black box opponents.

Be that as it may, it appears it’s only a matter of time before black boxes are required across the industry. That begs the question: Who owns the data they collect and who has the right to access it? Does the information belong to the driver? The fleet? Law enforcement officers? Money-hungry lawyers?

With all the unanswered questions involving black boxes in trucks, it springs to mind another type of box: that belonging to Pandora. We all know the trouble that one caused. Let’s hope the use of black boxes in trucks isn’t equally destructive.

– James Menzies can be reached by phone at 403-275-3160 or by e-mail at jamesmenzies@shaw.ca.


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