Despite the fact that my near-three year old has been honing her mastery of my smartphone for close to two years, and, on the other side of the spectrum, my grandfather, who turns 90 this June, showed off his new flip-phone when I last saw him in October, the sheer volume of tech options on the market for truck drivers could make those of any age flee in fear.
My publisher asked me a while back to write a story on how trucking companies and drivers can survive the current ‘electronic onslaught’, and what some surefire ways were to ensure that the seemingly endless amount of data coming off a truck is used to enhance operations rather than hinder it.
Electronic logging devices (ELDs) is perhaps the most pertinent piece of technology in the trucking world today, simply for the fact that they will soon be mandatory in the US, and it’s pretty safe to assume that Canada will follow suit.
Since I have started as editor of Truck West, I’ve also learned that there are few subjects that stir as much emotion than the mandated use of ELDs, as I have received more calls from drivers who are leery, or flat out oppose the new technology.
I have also learned during my years in journalism that the loudest and most often heard voices are from those in opposition of something, regardless of whether their numbers are large or miniscule.
Like anything new, be it a product or piece of legislation, one should expect that some fine tuning will have to be done, and that happens when glitches or errors are discovered in real time, which can be frustrating for those directly affected, like in this case, truck drivers.
What have drivers told me?
I have heard that ELDs can cause truckers to drive unsafely because they are trying to put as much road behind them in the timeframe they are allotted; I have been told that truckers can get stuck and hour or two away from their destination or from home because the ELD will not legally allow them to continue the extra 100 km; I have been told that ELDs have nothing to do with safety or efficiency, but is rather a device to appease government and insurance companies; I even heard one story where a driver’s truck was taken over remotely after their ELD indicated that they had gone over their time, and the truck was slowed to 2 km/hr, would not go any faster and they were forced to pull over.
No product or user is perfect, but technology has countless benefits from both a business and safety perspective.
With today’s technology, companies can accurately monitor hours of service; get diagnostic readings off trucks while on the road; foresee future mechanical problems and have them addressed before a breakdown; pinpoint and driver’s location and issue when something does go wrong; monitor driving habits so training can be individually tailored; maximize vehicle efficiencies to get the best fuel usage and reduce greenhouse gas emissions; get the best route to minimize distance and time travelled; the list is endless.
I turned 40 this June, and I realize that in the grand scheme of things, I’m not that old…right?
But when I was born, we used rotary phones; computers were for NASA and the CIA; music came from a vinyl 45 or 72 or an 8-track; and Twitter was what we called that annoying kid we didn’t like.
My point is that new technology can be scary and frustrating, but as long as it’s used properly, it is an amazing tool, one that should make our lives easier so we can spend more time doing the things that really matter.