A recent article sent to me spurred the title of my blog. In this article, “Life With No Fixed Address” (EOBRs Fail to Address Most Pressing Truck Safety Issues) from the New York City Truckers it states that “EOBRs do not and will never solve the two most pressing Hours Of Service safety concerns” These two issues that the article refers to are the “unreasonable amount of detention time at shippers and receivers” and also the inability for drivers to find safe parking facilities to take their required 10 hr break.
Guess what, I agree. However, I tend to disagree with the majority of the rest of this article. Let’s focus on what it is believed to be the 2 major issues - detention and parking. I can clearly speak to how many times I failed to receive compensation for loading and unloading time over and above the agreed time, usually two hours. As a former Director of Operations and owner of trucks without technology it was basically my driver’s word and a call in record of arrival and departure. Then when detention was billed, it was never paid because there was no proof of the delay. In the world of GPS Technology a carrier now has the opportunity to provide accurate documentation of the truck arriving and remaining at a fixed location for x amount of time. I would also point out that it was rare that the driver did not get paid for the reported detention time, even when there was no proof. GPS eliminates that, hence, payroll and billing can automatically be captured based on the parameters agreed on by carrier and shipper/receiver/brokers alike.
I can add to this case by telling you that by using technology and providing documentation for detention regular shippers and receivers became familiar with my trucks and detention was reduced. I could go on and on but without proof and documentation drivers and carriers won’t get paid for detention and it will never improve. I am very supportive of the public comments to the FMCSA about this important topic to bring it to the forefront. So we could wait for the government to act on this (good luck), or utilize proven technology to help solve the problem.
Moving on, recently I had the opportunity to see a presentation on the wireless roadside inspection process, WIPRO. One of the visions of this project is to be able to capture and make available parking information to truckers and carriers. Proof that someone is at least listening and trying to bring forward solutions that make trucking better is the continued use of the power of technology. EOBR’s will never solve all the problems for any carrier or driver but the benefits outweigh the negatives.
What amazed me about this article was the opening statement of what the biggest two problems were but then went on to bitch and moan about everything else under the sun. The remainder of the article never addressed or offered any type of solution or idea about what we could do about these two problems. It called out expensive substandard technology that does nothing but make carriers and technology companies rich. Novel concept, being in business to make money, if I am not mistaken, if you cannot pay the bills you will no longer be in business. Bottom line is that proactive safe carriers that adopted technology are learning things about their business that they never saw before. They are learning that drivers sometimes drive out of route, that sometimes they fudge on their logbook, and yes even sometimes sell fuel to others, and lie about their eta or location. Any one of those things in excess can drive a carrier out of business. Carriers support a mandate because it equals the playing field. All drivers will be subject to correctly recorded hours. Carrier B that runs paper logs can magically figure out how to deliver 11 ½ hours away the next morning when an EOBR carrier has to charge more for a team or relay operation. The 3rd most common theme in all of the public comments made by drivers was the fact that they all admitted to some form of cheating. Some call it flexibility, some say that they should have the right to sleep when they want and drive when they want. To a point I could almost agree with that, except for this one little thing called Hours of Service regulations that has been around since 1932. They were created to protect the driver from being over worked, and now that technology can make that easier drivers say they can’t cheat anymore. I loved the comment about how there is already a system in place to solve the HOS problem, how misinformed can you be? These must be the same truckers who said that EOBR’s turned off the trucks after you used all your hours.
Regarding the comments about how carriers use technology to harass their drivers, shame I missed out on the opportunity to sue the government and stop a regulation given the countless times I was woken up at night because a driver had a problem. I cannot tell you how many times that happens, but it is part of the job, and I always welcomed the call if it solved a driver’s problem, let’s remember they know when we sleep but they still pick up the phone. Without technology you have no actual proof that a driver is getting bothered. Messaging devices are all there for management and enforcement to see. I promise you that if I ever saw multiple messages from a dispatcher trying to push a driver along or messages while the driver was in the sleeper berth, I held the dispatcher accountable and I had the documentation and proof to discipline if necessary. Without an EOBR how is a dispatcher supposed to know and see what a driver is doing or what duty status he/she is currently in. I personally know of a large carrier, 100% owner operator, which put a company policy in place that requires supervisor approval before a message can be sent while the driver is in the sleeper berth. How is a carrier supposed to know that in a paper environment, they won’t, instead they will just pick up the phone and call.
I am going to close this out with a driver harassment story that I actually caused. And technology was absolutely to blame. At about 3am one morning I got a call from a frantic wife of one of my drivers. She said Jim you have to help me, I was just talking to my husband and the phone went dead, he had just said he was not feeling well. With cell phone to my ear I went directly to my computer to use GPS to locate my driver via the web, with the click of a mouse I did a find on his truck. In my other hand I was using my home phone to dial 911 and had them connect me to Waco, TX 911. They patched me directly to an officer in the area of the GPS location. Using the ability to zoom in on his location I directed that officer to my truck. So there you go, I confess I had the officer pound on the cab and turns out we woke the driver up. I guess that is what all the fuss is about, using technology to harass the drivers. Okay, I know I can’t end it there, turns out driver had such a bad ear infection and high temperature we had to get him to urgent care, he did not even remember talking to his wife and must have passed out while speaking with her. It was not life threatening and some fluids and I.V. antibiotics and a night at urgent care made things much better. He even drove his truck in the next day. So I guess this is what all the complaining is about.
This is where I get a little emotional, for every complaint one of these drivers or carrier owner/managers can come up with I can give you 10 reasons of how technology can help or document to make things better. I’m tired of hearing about it. Facts are that you can learn how to improve your business by looking at the data. Facts are that we have the safest roads in trucking in the last 20 years. I know the government would like to take credit for that last one, but it has nothing to do with them. It is the carriers themselves. The carriers that have embraced technology to run their business better, the carriers that are reaping the safety benefits of knowing/seeing and using proactive management to address driver behavior early before an accident - my hats goes off to the carriers, truck manufacturing, and other 3rd party providers that continue to innovate to bring ideas to the table so that truckers continue to be the true backbone of our country. If you want to complain about serious harassment complain about the possible healthcare reform our country is facing. Not the stuff that makes sense “common”.
This was written over Memorial Day Weekend, remember to thank those who have fought before us and died for us to have a place we can call home and can call free. After writing about the trivial stuff in this blog they we all think is so important now, I truly bring myself back to earth by remembering those that sacrificed everything for all of us. Keep it all in perspective.