Roadside inspections and monthly log audits are examples of routine procedures I face on a regular basis that can affect my driver record, my professional certification and my income.
The ‘safety through enforcement’ approach often leaves me feeling guilty until proven innocent. On one side, I have my carrier’s safety department, on the other side I have enforcement officials, both practicing due diligence as they enforce the rules.
It is not unusual for me to feel as though I am stuck between a rock and a hard place as I carry out my duties each day. Because of the punitive nature of how the rules are enforced, it is not unusual to have the feeling that someone is ready to pounce on every little mistake I make as I go about my daily business.
Written driver tests every five years, driver physicals every three years (or more), random drug and alcohol testing, CSA 2010, speed limiters, EOBRs, hours-of-service rules and the specter of sleep apnea testing are just some of the major issues that govern a driver’s conduct. Our industry is constructed on a foundation that pits us, the drivers, against them, safety and enforcement. Generating a feeling of us against them may not be the intent behind the rules, but it is often the result.
Are we getting the big picture of the trucking industry from the view we have from our cab or is our point of view too narrow? Is it us against them? Are drivers being unfairly targeted of late? Are there too many rules being introduced of late? Are added laws and legislation limiting a driver’s ability to do the job and to earn a decent living?
I can’t answer those questions for anyone other than myself. But I can relate a couple of experiences that helped me to see the bigger picture and open up my mind to a view beyond the confines of the wheelhouse that we all spend our days in.
This past August I had the opportunity to present a driver’s position regarding electronic on-board recorders. I attended a meeting with the senior managers of my company and a representative from the Carrier Safety and Enforcement Branch of the Ontario Ministry of Transportation. It was a frank discussion and I was able to present some of the major issues I was facing with the live implementation of an EOBR in my truck.
What impressed me the most about this meeting was learning how little feedback decision-makers receive from individuals on the front line. The users most affected provide the least input into how this new technology affects their daily routine. Think about this: So often we react to decisions that are made and systems that are put into place after the fact. We need to participate more in the process and have more of an influence on decision-makers.
When I think about the numerous experiences I have had with enforcement officers throughout North America at various government scales, I have not had a really bad experience.
I have had some equipment issues at a couple of those inspections but have always been treated in a professional manner and I have never had the feeling that anyone is out to get me. I also spent a day observing inspections at an Ontario scale during the annual CVSA spring blitz a couple of years ago and was impressed with the latitude inspectors gave to drivers.
I noted a number of drivers that day that had not received the adequate training or information they needed to do the job to the best of their ability. Inspectors gave these drivers a good bit of leeway and assistance so as not to punish them unfairly.
Over this past month, my own company has recognized that I would benefit from a more structured routine and has put together a program for me that gives me more home time.
This came about as a result of changes with the EOBR. It’s time to adapt and change in a positive way. We can’t continue to do things the same old way with new technologies and systems in place.
So it’s not us against them after all. At least, not in my case. This job confines you to your cab for long periods of time. That confinement can result in a narrow point of view on our part. There are many excellent people in this industry with nothing but good intentions.
Those good intentions need information from the front lines to have the greatest impact. More than ever, we need to share our experience and insight with the decision-makers in this industry. It’s easier than it has ever been to share information. It builds bridges and your own morale.