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EOBRs are fine, but should be accompanied by hourly pay

It’s been a while, so I thought it was time for me to wade into the EOBR debate once again. As usual, I heard something that triggered my renewed interest in the subject. The thought provoking comment was that EOBRs ‘make the roads...

It’s been a while, so I thought it was time for me to wade into the EOBR debate once again. As usual, I heard something that triggered my renewed interest in the subject. The thought provoking comment was that EOBRs ‘make the roads safer, as proven in Europe.’

Now first things first, as a former inhabitant of Europe, let me just say that things had changed dramatically during my 20-something years on the roads over there. The roads themselves have changed to make intersections safer. The trucks and cars have changed beyond recognition. They now have more safety features than you can shake a stick at, the whole alphabet soup of ABS, EBS, ASR, SRS, disc brakes and all that. In fact, the only things they lack are a life jacket and a parachute.

Add to that the fact that traffic volumes have increased to the point where it’s almost impossible to reach a speed where you could have an injury from a wreck and I fail to see the correlation between the Euro version of an EOBR and enhanced road safety. As I see it, they haven’t made a difference at all.

As usual, the legislators are using half-baked theories to reinforce their statistics. If rulemakers really wanted to improve road safety, they could find the answer in Europe – but it’s not in the form of an EOBR.

I am talking about paying drivers in the correct manner. The current method we use here is actually illegal in Europe. You cannot encourage a driver to break the law by paying them based on miles travelled. Their wages over there are calculated on the time it takes to do their job, not on a random mileage figure based on the cent-per-mile rate at a particular carrier.

There are some companies that pay higher hourly rates than others, so it isn’t a communist-style blanket wage, and believe it or not, there are really companies over there that pay a very good wage. Yet, their drivers work less than 40 hours per week, and that would be a three-day week to a lot of long-haul drivers over here. As a driver, EOBRs and hourly pay are starting to look like a really good thing to me.

I have spoken to drivers here about the set-up in Europe. Their responses are usually the same: ‘If it’s that good over there, why are you now over here?’ My answer may sound a little crazy, but it is what it is. I enjoy trucking – long-distance trucking especially. The landscape of international trucking changed and the British lost out, so I was stuck driving in Britain and it is too small with far too many people on the roads for that to be enjoyable.

Now comes the crazy part; I swapped a life where I was paid by the hour – paid very well too – to work longer and harder for less money. There are so many things that can interfere with my earnings. Before, it didn’t matter what came in contact with the fan, my bank balance increased. Now traffic, weather, incompetence from dispatch or at a shipper/receiver all mean my earnings suffer.

I am glad I made the move. I’m far happier now and I love it over here. The job itself is so much better.

However, there are people in the corridors of power who are trying to make my life a misery once again. They’re trying to fix something that isn’t broken and if they get their way, they will achieve their goal of reducing truck-involved crashes. There will be no trucks wrecking out on the roads because there will be nobody driving them; after a few months of EOBRs and the current method of payment, truck drivers will not be able to afford the gas money to get to their terminal to go driving truck.

Many drivers I’ve spoken to have told me this, and I believe them, but hold on a minute, how can that be the case? If a driver is drawing lines in a log book or pushing a button on an EOBR, the end result is the same, surely?

Unfortunately that is not the case. Drivers may call it ‘flexibility,’ but let’s stop kidding ourselves, anybody who will lose money because an EOBR is forcing them to drive less is currently breaking the law.

A lot of the same drivers also said that they want the 14/16-hour law scrapped. Why? They can only drive 11/13 hours, so why do they need an indefinite period of time in which to do that? Is it because they’re spending too much time at the truck stop? Is it because they’re fudging their logs under the current rules? Or is because their dispatch is inefficient? Or maybe because they spend too much time on the loading dock? In every single case, working longer hours to overcome this is part of the problem, not the cure.

I’m quite fortunate; I have a good dispatcher, and we have good work that limits my time spent on the loading dock. I also have over 20 years of experience managing my time efficiently, so the current system works well for me, but I would also be able to adapt to any future legislation.  

We will be getting EOBRs, make no mistake about that. But they have to be accompanied by hourly pay if we want to drag the industry into the 21st century.

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