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Will "Big Brother" Monitoring Drive Truckers Away?

March 14, 2017
Some truck drivers say the ELD mandate goes too far in cataloging their every move behind the wheel.

The other day I was talking to a friend of mine who is an over-the-road driver. He was complaining that he feels like he's being watched while he's driving his truck.

He explained that the sensors in his truck, which at first just logged his driving time and location, are now providing even more behavioral data. For example, if he brakes quickly, he'll receive communication from the company asking if he's ok. While that might sound like the company is showing commendable concern for its drivers, my friend feels his every move is now being closely monitored.

His concerns could become quite commonplace as the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate goes into effect this year. The rule aims to create a safer work environment for drivers, and make it easier and faster to accurately track, manage and share records of duty status (RODS) data, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the agency that created this rule. However, those measurements are just the start of the changes impacting drivers inside the cabin.

It's no secret that the use of technology to track a variety of metrics on drivers has been increasing in the past few years. And the truckers have been quite unspoken in giving their opinions on these developments. In a recent interview on NPR, for instance, a UPS driver said that he takes issue with the company tracking how often its drivers back up. UPS says this tracking is necessary for safety reasons. However, the driver said that this tracking "feels like an attack on how you've been doing the job." He went on to say that he can understand how drivers could get so frustrated with behavioral tracking that they won't even want to drive anymore.

That brings up an interesting point. It takes a certain type of personality to be able to be an over-the-road driver, spending long periods of time alone on the highway. My friend says sometimes he goes for days without having an actual conversation with anyone. After a full day of driving he mostly unwinds by walking a few laps around a truck stop for exercise and then goes to bed. The type of person who gravitates to this line of work does so in part because of the freedom of the open road. Part of the attraction to the job is the appeal of not having a boss standing over you. So how will truck drivers react to the feeling that they're being closely watched, with their boss not only "looking over their shoulder," so to speak, but actually analyzing and measuring the driver's every move?

In my friend's case, he doesn't like that feeling at all. He hasn't said he's going to leave the industry because of it, but other drivers certainly have said as much.

A trucker quoted in a recent article in the Washington Post said he feels these rules are "the final straw for truckers who've grown more impatient with each new restriction." He predicts that the industry is going to lose a whole section of very safe drivers who could work for a few more years and "are just going to call it quits."

"I will not be electronically monitored and tracked by my government," another veteran trucker told recently. Instead, he said, he would just retire.

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