Private Links: The value of logic

by Bruce Richards

The concept of progressive discipline is well ingrained in our society. Our criminal courts practice it in other than the most horrific cases; the youth justice system does the same; and most employers use progressive discipline as a part of their everyday employee management systems.

The highway transportation sector follows a similar practice. In Ontario, the CVOR system has its own version of progressive discipline in place. Warning letters, interviews and sanctions are applied in a pre-determined manner as fleets accumulate demerit points. Drivers – commercial and automobile – are also subject to progressive discipline in most jurisdictions as they accumulate points for various infractions.

The requirement for those convicted of DUI to have an ignition inter-lock system installed in their vehicle is yet another example – we don’t require that all vehicles be so equipped, just those of the offenders.

The US DoT recently introduced a proposed rule-making which, in its current form, would make Electronic On-Board Recorders (EOBRs) mandatory for fleets with two ‘serious’ hours of work violations in a two-year period. I’m unclear at this point as to what constitutes “serious,” and don’t necessarily agree that the fleet should pay the price of non-compliance rather than the driver, but those are discussions for another day.

What is significant in this proposal is that the DoT is not about to mandate that all trucks be required to install EOBRs. They are targeting the offenders, and doing so with a form of progressive discipline. You will need to be a multiple offender before you are required to install an EOBR.

Clearly the concept of progressive discipline is well entrenched as a means of maintaining order and disciplining transgressors in society and in the workplace; and to narrow the scope a little, within the trucking industry. The laws are established and everyone is expected to obey them. When they don’t do so, remedial action is taken against the offenders, not against everyone.

Let’s consider this concept with the trucking industry in mind. Various departments and ministries across our country enforce trucking regulation with an even hand, at least as even as possible. It is presumed that everyone will operate within the bounds of the law until events prove otherwise, and it is only those that run afoul of the law that are faced with intervention.

The offenders are the ones that receive warning letters, may be required to attend show-cause hearings, have their plates removed, or become subject to any of the other tools that enforcement officials have at hand.

The argument has been made that anyone who obeys the law shouldn’t be concerned about mandatory controls being imposed on him or her. That argument has been used against those who oppose mandatory EOBRs or other devices to control trucks. Well, it just doesn’t wash. Good carriers should not be treated the same as those that can’t or won’t obey the law.

By far, the majority of truck operators, drivers and fleet managers, are responsible, law-abiding people. The records prove that, so it’s not just wishful thinking on our part.

The overall safety record of trucking is very good and getting better. That doesn’t just happen through serendipity, it happens because the industry consists largely of responsible people who really do care about the safety of every road user, and who work hard to control their drivers and vehicles.

For example, here at the PMTC we honour fleets with excellent safety records and professional drivers with absolutely incredible safe driving records accumulated over many years. These fleets and drivers are representative of the best in the industry. Other trucking associations across Canada also recognize the pillars of the industry, and none of these associations are short of candidates for their awards.

The DoT has taken an important position with the proposed rule-making on EOBRs. The proposal is based on the principal that it is repeat offenders that need to be addressed, not the trucking industry at large. It remains to be seen of course, whether the proposal will be successful, but we give them high marks for their efforts so far.

As mentioned above, there are many examples of progressive discipline within the trucking industry – examples that work.

It is faulty logic then to require an entire industry to adopt measures that are only needed to control a few.

– The Private Motor Truck Council is the only national association dedicated to the private trucking community. Your comments or questions can be addressed to

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