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It’s not the EOBRs we should be concerned about

It's time for me to throw my two cents worth into the EOBR debate. As someone who has many years' experience of a 'spy in the cab,' I've got a good idea of what the EOBR will do to trucking. I'm a driver, through choice. The most enjoyable part...

It’s time for me to throw my two cents worth into the EOBR debate. As someone who has many years’ experience of a ‘spy in the cab,’ I’ve got a good idea of what the EOBR will do to trucking. I’m a driver, through choice. The most enjoyable part of my job is the freedom I have at work, freedom that the EOBR will take away from me – or will it?

The simple answer is no. In the long-term, it will not affect me one bit. Sure, it will track my every movement, but that’s already being done by a multitude of other stuff. Cell phones send out a signal to the cell towers, it’s a simple process for the phone company to track every move I make.

Law enforcement can subpoena these records if they need to – it’s unlikely the DoT will, but the facility is there. Electronic toll tags also record times, dates and vehicle details. Scalehouses and Pre-Pass transponders record the same details, but add axle spacing, speed and weight to the recorded details.

Gate logs at shippers/receivers have time and date stamps on them. Most now log you into a computer and everything is timed. Then we have fuel receipts. Even swiping a loyalty card for a coffee or a shower puts you in a specific location at a specific time, as do credit card receipts and so on. In short, most things drivers fear about the EOBR are already being done.
The only way to avoid any of the above is to run through the bush, don’t buy fuel, don’t shower and don’t buy any food or drink. There’s not a lot of point doing that, as it’s a very short-term solution to a problem that, if you plan your trip properly, doesn’t exist. Unless you’re an outlaw trucker, in which case you don’t belong in the industry in the first place.

So what do we have to look forward to when the EOBR is mandated? (Notice I say ‘when’ not ‘if.’ They’re coming our way. I’ve just fired up my crystal ball, so trust me on this)!

I happen to think that for both drivers and carriers alike it will be a good thing overall. Short-term, it will be a nightmare. Appointments will be missed and drivers will be running out of time left, right and centre.

That will soon get sorted out. Under normal circumstances the driver is expected to overcome all the obstacles that get in the way.

A Winnipeg-Calgary or a Toronto-Montreal turn can be done within a 13-hour driving day…on paper.

But throw in some weather or a back-up, or frozen brakes, or a line-up at a fuel stop, etc., and then the only way to do it is to be ‘creative.’

There’s an old saying: ‘Today’s favour is tomorrow’s job.’ In far too many operations it’s expected now.

The planners and their computer screens know no better, the job gets done as the computer says it will, but it’s the driver that makes it happen – not some fancy program that works out distances and average speeds, speeds which are often the maximum in the province or state.

Far from being the Holy Grail, these programs are among the worst things ever to happen to trucking. Properly run companies will say they improve efficiency, they can, if used correctly, but far too many use it as an absolute: the computer says it takes X-hours, so it better not take any longer.

Dispatch can say to drivers ‘Well the computer says it can be done in X-hours, why did it take you an extra hour?’

The driver then feels pressured not to have that conversation again and the next time, he skips lunch or a shower and gets creative to avoid it.

The EOBR will switch the onus back to the office. We have a responsibility to do our best for our companies/customers, but it has a limit. The EOBR will draw the lines that we all have to work to and planners and dispatchers will have to change their game too.

The programs also keep rates down. In the winter or in the big cities, what used to be possible simply isn’t anymore.
Yet the rates haven’t risen to take into account the extra time, which can be as much as an extra day per week when it’s all added up. So carriers are actually responsible for the thing they all moan about the most: low rates.

It’s way past the time that the industry stood up for itself.

We have a real problem with saying ‘no.’

Now we don’t have to anymore, the little black box in the cab will do that for all of us. Drivers will have to be paid more. There’s already talk of a shortage.

More drivers will be needed, how will that happen? Simple, more money. So that’s a good thing for us, but what about our employers/customers?

The same applies: more trucks will be needed, they’ll be able to name their price and so they should. Okay, all this money will come from somewhere, the extra charge to shippers will be passed on to the consumer, but so what? We’ll be earning more money than we are now, we won’t even notice the increase!

For far too long, transport costs have been artificially low. We’re not a commodity, we’re the most important industry in the economy. Yet we all, for the most part, compete on price first and foremost, with the lowest being the best to everyone but ourselves. The EOBR will, if we do it right, change all that.

Personally I like things as they are right now. I’m a professional. I work alongside professionals – we all know how to do the job properly – but we live in the age of machines and technology. As sure as night follows day, they’re coming down the pike. We need to work out the benefits they can bring rather than concentrate all our time and energy on moaning about them. We’ve got to adapt or we become dinosaurs.

We all know what happened to those guys.

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