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Keeping an open mind about potential of electronic on-board recorders

I've always had difficulty with the hours-of-service (HoS) rules. I have a good understanding of the rules and can log as creatively as the next person.




I’ve always had difficulty with the hours-of-service (HoS) rules. I have a good understanding of the rules and can log as creatively as the next person.

That’s the problem -logging creatively. Ask a thousand drivers to complete their “driver’s daily log” under a given set of circumstances and you will get a thousand variations on the same theme. Each driver will struggle to match their unique individual needs and the unique needs of the industry niche they work in to the rules.

The stated purpose of the HoS rules is to try to ensure that a driver is not fatigued to an extent that he or she cannot operate a commercial vehicle safely.

It is not the intent of the HoS legislation, or the sleep science that supports it, that I take issue with. The problem lies in how the rules are applied.

The lack of flexibility within the rules is what has led to the accepted practice by drivers of gaming the system through the driver’s daily log.

The whole industry, including enforcement, has been complicit in this charade since HoS rules first came into play.

I suffer from fatigue on a regular and ongoing basis. Whether you are ready to admit it or not, many of you reading this do also. The rules are not fulfilling their stated intent of ensuring a driver is not fatigued.

So what should the rules look like? I think Joanne Ritchie summed it up best in her December 2009 column that appeared in Truck News entitled Fifteen years and counting: “I believe it’s high time that a true fatigue management plan was brought to the table, one that allows drivers to manage their own internal and very individual need for rest within the confines of a workable set of limits on drive time and prescribed minimums for daily rest.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Enter the Electronic On-Board Recorder (EOBR). Under the supervision of the EOBR, the rules are no longer interpreted. Driving time is what it is and happens when it happens. Period. I’ve had the opportunity to work with an EOBR in my truck for the last nine months or so and I like it.

The EOBR may prove to be a driver’s best friend and the agent of change our industry needs to put the debate on hours-of-service to bed once and for all. Huh? I know, you’re thinking there is no way big brother’s black box could ever be a friend of yours, right?

The EOBR provides enforcement officials with compliance data that cannot be questioned. The driving time is what it is.

The driving time data on the electronic daily log is gathered directly from the truck’s electronic control module and a sensor on the drive axle. Gaming of the system on the part of the driver no longer exists.

The 70-hour work week remains in place for a driver providing plenty of time to get the freight to the receiver on time. Drivers will no longer be reporting a 70-hour week and working an 80-to 90-hour week.

So you think an EOBR will have a negative impact on your income because it limits the amount of time you can drive? Don’t be overly concerned.

The industry can’t afford to have you driving fewer miles. Inefficiencies in the system will quickly be eliminated. This bodes well for drivers. We will benefit from a reduction in dock delays and less time waiting between loads. The EOBR will force all players in the industry to be more accountable for their actions.

I think it’s high time our lifestyle issues, our work/life balance issues, are brought to the forefront.

There is no better way to do this than through the HoS rules that lie at the core of our daily routine. The question of whether or not a driver is complying with the rules needs to be taken out of the equation for our own benefit. The EOBR does this very effectively.

EOBRs are part of the rapid technological growth we are experiencing across our whole culture. They are first and foremost an information tool, gathering huge amounts of data and providing us with valuable knowledge.

Do we possess the wisdom to apply this newfound knowledge in effective and productive ways? Will we be able to work smarter and not harder? Will the industry come to recognize that focusing on improving the driver’s lifestyle is the key to improving productivity and profitability? Can we move away from seeing the EOBR as a “black box” with the sole purpose of enforcing compliance?

I think the EOBR has opened the door to improving our lifestyle. It is a discussion we all need to take part in.

-Al Goodhall has been a professional long-haul driver since 1998. He shares his experiences via his ‘Over the Road’ blog at http://truckingacrosscanada.blogspot.comand you can follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/Al_Goodhall.


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Truck News is Canada's leading trucking newspaper - news and information for trucking companies, owner/operators, truck drivers and logistics professionals working in the Canadian trucking industry.
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