Coping with E.D.D. & T.D.S.

Today I would like to focus on our dependence on electronic innovation and gadgets in our society. Throughout the history of our great country we’ve developed a fascination with electricity and electronics. This fascination goes back to Ben Franklin and Thomas Edison in terms of its use in the United States. Since the development of the light bulb we have pursued bigger and better uses of electricity. Through the efforts of people like Nikola Tesla and Marconi, these changes have infiltrated our lives and changed our standards of living. Even a small spark had the power to move our society from steam power to internal combustion power. Our government got involved with the creation of the Tennessee Valley Authority and the R.E.A. They are responsible for electrifying much of America. The U.S. also pursued monumental projects with the development of hydroelectric power. Later in 1946 the first computer developed was named “ENIAC” which is an acronym for Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer. The pursuit of technology was drastically accelerated in the sixties with the challenge of going to the moon. The U.S. had officially entered the space race. The interest in the development of technology hit an all time high.

Today we enjoy our smart phones, GPS, cars that park themselves, remote controls for almost everything and let’s not forget the internet! We have become addicted to social media, portable connectivity and computing. Technology that is intended to make our lives easier and safer. That brings me to the true subject, E.D.D. ( Electronic Dependence Disorder ) and T.D.S. ( Technology Dependency Syndrome ). These are disabilities that have yet to be discovered or acknowledged. It is important to recognize that when something is gained, something likewise is also lost. In years past the things lost were freely exchanged for the things gained. The slide rule was replaced by the calculator. Use of the calculator, in turn, has caused many of the formulas of an equation to become insignificant. Email has replaced what we now call “snail mail”. We now have smart thermostats to control heating and cooling more efficiently. Some of these devices can even be controlled remotely from a smart phone. We (the public) are eager to consume all the latest and greatest advancements that we can afford.

Some technology has been beneficial overall with little effect of what has been lost. An example of this is self adjusting slack adjusters. Today’s drivers know little about adjusting breaks and the repercussions of badly adjusted brakes. Air conditioning in automobiles was a very welcome advancement. A.B.S. was a great invention. I remember, before advanced technology, when you hit the breaks, you would check the mirrors to see which side the trailer was going to slide toward. However, with self adjusting slacks and A.B.S., the need to understand what causes a trailer to swing sideways in hard breaking was lost.

E.D.D. and T.D.S.( remember: Electronic Dependence Disorder and Technology Dependency Syndrome ) has infiltrated the trucking industry. Some advancements have been welcomed and some, not so much. Today we see a very aggressive push toward technology to balance the lack of education and experience as a trade off for proper training and higher profits. Dependency on electronics was credited as the cause of an airplane crash in San Francisco last year. Laws have been passed about the use of cell phones and texting while driving because of the threat to safety.

While society has reached a point that we may be willing to give up some of our privacy or control for convenience, not everyone is on board with every new innovation that comes out. The technology used in the ELDs today is preferred by some drivers because they don’t have to learn how to record a log properly or struggle with the math involved in the complex HOS rules. Other drivers reject this technology proclaiming it reduces flexibility and forces many drivers to operate in higher risk periods of the day. It has not been shown to reliably increase safety at all, however there are many arguments made to that point. As matter of fact, experienced drivers have protested that the lack of flexibility has reduced safety and increased fatigue. The same can be said about crash mitigation technology. In most cases, it helps the undertrained driver avoid a crash. It removes control of the vehicle from the driver and follows a preset program designed by people who may have never seen the inside of a truck cab.

A properly trained driver would avoid risky situations and negate the effectiveness of, or need for, technology that compensates for a lack of skill. More and more control is being removed from the drivers and being replaced by technology. We seem to be allowing technology to replace proper training. Proof of this can be found with a congressional mandate that is over twenty years old calling for driver training standards that have to this day not been established. During that same time, many electronic advancements have been mandated to reduce the input needed from a driver. What happens when you are on an icy road and the computer applies the breaks? Legends have been made about the drivers that have chosen the lesser of two evils and put themselves in harms way to avoid injury to others. Does technology have the ability to allow that? In the not so distant future, a driver will only be needed as a systems manager for a truck.

Another unanswered question is, what happens when you lose the dependability of technology? Computers depend on sensors to monitor conditions and make adjustments. Sensors will only last so long. What will a truck do if it gets the wrong signal from its sensors? If the computer gets a glitch, can the driver of tomorrow take over safely without compromising public safety? Will a truck driver be able to handle the equipment with proficiency or simply guide the truck to the nearest shoulder until a trained professional arrives to fix the problem? Or maybe we will have a default program to deal with that as well….

I’ve heard the buggy whip argument and how we must adapt. I do believe this is true. I also believe that we must acknowledge what is being lost while we promote what is supposedly being gained. I really believe that we must build from solid foundations of education to truly create a better tomorrow. I support technology that gives a driver more control, not less control. When our dependence on technology supersedes our skills, how much better off are we? Shouldn’t we invest in knowledge and training? Without GPS, how many drivers could find their way? Without an ELD, how many could keep a legal paper log? Without ABS, how many drivers would stay in their own lane? Do we really need to invest in more technology and less training or teach the fundamentals and embrace safety in the absence of technology? This condition we are experiencing of dependency on technology and allowing it to replace real learned or developed skill is littered with pitfalls. We must not allow our drivers to be dumbed down by those who want to sell their latest gadgets and promote them as being safer for the public. Education and experience should be our first line obligation to the industry and the public. We need driver training standards and driver trainer standards. We need to educate our public how to drive better and safer. It is time for all professional drivers to step up and direct the future of our industry.

HOS ( Hours of Service ) 101

As truckers we deal with the HOS (Hours of Service) rules every day. In fact, we live our lives by the dictates of these rules. The decisions of when we stop and start, rest or run, take a break, even what is considered a break are all aspects of these rules. Most of the (truck) drivers on the road try very hard to comply with these rules and operate their trucks in the safest manner they can within the constraints of these rules. Herein lies the problem. Almost all of these rules were made without a full understanding of the circumstances the average driver faces from day to day. My goal here is not to explain the rules, but to shed some light on these rules so “Non” truck drivers have a better understanding of the challenges these rules pose and why safety is sometimes compromised due to a lack of flexibility in these rules.

I think first of all you need to understand that every truck driving job is NOT the same. Some of the big box carriers are on contracts that allow for a structured schedule. These seem to be the style of operation that the rules are most suited to. Unfortunately, they make up a very small sector of the industry. Each type of transportation needs has its own special requirements. Outside the trucking world, most of you would recognize what most of us do as “split shift” work. We work when we are needed and then we wait until we are needed again.

Imagine if you were a store manager. You had to go in at 7 am to open the store. That’s all you were needed for. Your regular shift might be from 3 pm to 11 pm. If you were a truck driver, you would be restricted to only working until 9 pm because of a rule that limits you to a 14 hour window that you can work. You might have even gone back home and slept another 4 hours in that off time. At 9 pm, you have exhausted your 14 hour on duty clock. You would only have 6 hours of time to earn your pay. In that time, you could work it straight through and not lose any of that time. But, if you took a 1/2 hour break, you would only get 5 1/2 hour of pay that day and you would be forced to not drive anywhere when your shift was over.

Imagine if we applied this standard to some other occupations. First in mind is Doctors. Very much a profession depending on safety and sound judgement. Part way through an operation he may have to take a 30 minute break or be fined by the government and his score as a doctor is lowered on a website for all the public to see. What about firefighters? An early morning fire but they can not start work for another 2 hours. Police; you have a break in but they only have 3 hours left on their 70 hour clock. There are other occupations like pilots, boat captains, train engineers, construction workers, even lawyers, accountants, factory workers, food service workers, child care workers,…. The list goes on. Each of these occupations depend on safety and accountability. The difference is that everyone of these professions get paid based on time, knowledge, and/or skill. A truck driver (generally) is only paid based on miles ran.

You are starting to see the problem, but there is more. Because of the limited time you can work, you have to hire more people to do the same amount of work. These people you hire are likely to be less experienced and get paid less. Because they get paid less, they are in higher demand and the experienced people become worth only what they can be replaced for. Now your most experienced people become more complacent and start to look for better employment opportunities in another field. The overall quality has been lowered. Now you’re hoping the person giving you anesthesia don’t mess up!

As the public calls for more regulations to increase safety, the reality is that safety has been lowered overall and this occupation is less attractive as a lifetime means of support. It is important to understand the need and meaning of the word “flexibility” for well trained truck drivers to operate their trucks most efficiently and safely.

I want to leave you with some links to check out for a better understanding of these rules. I urge all to learn more about the real problems in the trucking business. There are many opinions of what should be done but these are from the representation of the safest drivers on our roads today. Thank you.

My testimony before a congressional subcommittee on HOS.

Let’s Make a Difference

This week I have several things to share with you. First, I want to ask how everyone is doing with the Five Plus Challenge? Were you able move away from your comfort zone far enough to start accepting the challenge? Did you make contact with a representative? I suspect very few did. I admit, I didn’t either. I promise you that in the three weeks left in the month, I will make that contact. I’m not doing very good on getting  five people to participate as well. This is also a part of the challenge that I will continue to work on. This leads me to the next realization I had last week.

As I listened to the current events and many of the different perspectives on the varied subjects, I realized that the trucking industry is very much a reflection of the national landscape. There is a lot of talk about what should be done on many different fronts but it is the voice of the major players and media that come through. A lot is presented as if it were the silver bullet to all the problems but in reality, “they” don’t often speak to the needs of the minions. We continue taking what is decided for us in spite of our protests. Just look at the results from the listening sessions that were held. Many people with extensive experience spoke up and gave excellent input. Yet, the voice that gets heard is that of the major players.

I heard a statistic about voter participation in America. It indicated that participation across the board was down. Even more so on off year elections. You may ask, “What does this have to do with trucking”? Well the statistics for truckers getting involved are even lower than the national average! We have to learn how to be the stewards of our own destiny. We will do this by becoming part of the system and being heard. You may feel as if your voice doesn’t really make much difference. The truth is that unless your politician stands to gain something from it, your voice alone doesn’t really make much difference. That is why we have been ignored on so many issues. When we speak together, we display a voting block. That is something that can be valued. If that block is large enough, we start to be heard. We have the power to make quality changes to our industry if we collectively stand together.

We are a government, By the People, Of the People and, For the People. If we don’t participate in the government, WE ARE NOT HEARD! That is the importance of the challenge from last week. We have to decide if we are going to take what we are fed or decide for ourselves what we will have. As we get older and become the more experienced drivers in our industry, we have to learn more leadership skills to properly prepare the newer drivers for their own future.

It really is about moving out of your comfort zone to take the next steps. We can do this. Just try it this week. Try to call your representative. You will get a staffer. Tell them how you feel about something. I promise you that you will go away with the satisfaction of knowing that you actually did something. If that is too big of a step, then go to and just sign on to one of the form letters there. You may also feel that it didn’t really make a difference. Well, when you add your voice to the others that decided to make a difference, you will start to see things change. Encourage others to find that inner strength to make a difference too! Before you know it, you will be the roll model of the next generation. Let’s step up and make a difference!