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How job surveillance is changing trucking in America

How job surveillance is changing trucking in America


We work in a world filled with devices that can monitor us, locate us, and tell us what to do. That raises the question — who watches you
work? And how does work change when you know someone’s
watching you do it? There’s one industry that’s asking that
question more than ever: trucking. Self driving semi trucks. Programmed to follow routes from GPS systems
while the driver rests. Over time, automation will dramatically change
work for the 3.5 million truck drivers in America. But until then, truckers are going to be monitored
and managed by computers like never before. And if you want to know what happens when
people start to reject that kind of monitoring — here’s what that looks like. It’s like wearing an ankle bracelet where
you’re being tracked, every move you make. We are against this law because this is ruining
our truckers’ lives. I want the government to get out of the way,
and give you the opportunity to be a success. This is the Department of Transportation during
a week of trucker-organized demonstrations in October 2017. They’re here protesting these things called Electronic Logging Devices, or ELDs. What these are — They’re protesting these things called — These are computers that go inside
a car, hook up to the car’s engine, and monitor location, driving status, how fast
a car is going, and basically report that information back to an employer. They also manage a driver’s workday based
on a strict schedule designed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to limit
driver fatigue. Truckers can drive for a maximum of 11 hours
per day — but they have to take a 30 minute break somewhere in between. They can work an additional 3 non-driving
hours, but have to take a 10 hour break before they can start driving again. As of December 2017, these devices are mandatory
in all trucks across the country. Oftentimes when we talk about automation in trucking
and other workplace contexts, there’s a big concern about a massive spike in unemployment. But oftentimes, the way this gets discussed
is that it’s like human-human-human-robot. And you see a big spike in unemployment. And what I think is more realistic is the
curve is more gradual, right? So you do see robots starting to get integrated
into the work, but not in a sudden way. That invites is kind of interesting question:
what happens along the curve? And the answer is that you’re going to see
more integration between machines carrying out some part of the job and humans carrying
out some part of the job. Truckers across the US have been preparing for the first big step on that curve: working
alongside ELDs. This is the ELD, right here. Talking about the ELD mandate. Transitioning everyone into the ELDs now. But the one-size-fits-all schedule that this
device imposes is not new. The strict breakdown of driving, non-driving,
and sleeping time has been used in one form or another since 1938. The longer drivers go without a break, the
higher the rate of fatigue-related accidents. So the system was designed to limit a trucker’s
driving time to fit natural sleep patterns. So this is kind of the analog technology that
the digital one is supposed to replace. But circumventing those rules was quite common
with paper logbooks, since they could be changed by hand. Like if you sat down and looked at this for
five minutes you would figure out how to falsify it if you needed to right? It’s pretty imprecise. So ELDs aren’t necessarily creating any
new rules, but they’re making the existing ones a lot harder to break. For truckers paid by the mile, that translates
into an intense pressure to drive as much as they possibly can within the 11-hour time
limit. They can’t pause without actively losing
money. Soon as you turn that key on in the truck,
they’re watching you. If you’re tired, you can’t stop and take
a nap. If you hit a road construction, a snow storm,
your hours are ticking. Many of the truckers who protested in DC have
near-perfect safety records after driving millions of miles over their careers — and
they’re doubtful that a device that tells them how to structure their days will make
them any safer. A 2014 report by the Federal Motor Carrier
Safety Administration found that drivers who used ELDs had an 11.7 percent reduction in
total crash rate and a 5.1 percent reduction in preventable crash rate. But since only a limited group of drivers
were using ELDs when the study was conducted, it’s hard to know how representative those
safety numbers are. A 2016 report by a committee of the National
Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine stated that there simply isn’t enough data
on fatigue-related crash rates more broadly— and argued that further research is needed
before changing the law that sets drive time limits.. We’re not computers — we don’t have
an off button. The thing this does do, is it forces you to
get up and go if you’re tired, it forces you to get up and go if you don’t feel good. You do not have the choice with this machine
to drive like we used to, and it’s not about running 24 hours a day, it’s about making
a common sense decision about how you feel, how the road conditions are, whether or not
you want to run through rush hour, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. One of the core complaints about ELDs is that
they don’t understand a trucker’s body or the context — a trucker could be totally
alert and just 20 minutes away from home, but legally required to stop for 10 hours
if they ran out of driving time. But ironically, there’s now a growing market
of technologies designed to more accurately diagnose fatigue — and they are much more
intrusive than ELDs. A company called SmartCap makes hats that
measure brain waves and gives you a fatigue rating. Another called Seeing Machines uses computer
vision to watch a driver’s eyelids. And in 2020 Mercedes plans to release a vest
that can detect a driver heart attack and stop the truck. Plenty of industries watch their employees
quite closely — but trucking is unique because a truck is both a workplace and a home. Trucks are such personal spaces — because
of the length of time drivers are in them, like some drivers drive with their families,
they drive with their dogs, they have a bed there, they eat their meals there. It is a different sort of workplace than a
convenience store that you go to and then you go home. Like it is your home for for a period of time. And so privacy invasions in that context I
think are felt in a more acute way than they might be in some other industries. It’s hard to see intrusive technologies
slowing down in trucking. Services like Amazon Prime have made us accustomed
to getting deliveries incredibly fast, and there’s increasing consumer demand for package
location tracking. All of that requires truckers to work incredibly
fast while being monitored very closely. Ain’t that funny? I can drive around all I want in this pickup. Soon as I get up in that rig, now I’m somebody’s
doggone prisoner in a box, I’m not a responsible individual. Didn’t matter that I served this country,
who gives a s**t. I ain’t nothin’. I’m just a trucker, that’s all I am. Just a trucker, just a d****ss trucker. It’s interesting because, of course, surveillance has been part of the workplace since the inception
of work. But at the same time it’s a change that’s
occurred in a very large scale form, because of the capabilities of the new technologies. There’s a scene from the 1936 movie “Modern
Times” where Charlie Chaplin’s character takes a bathroom break from his assembly line
job. But it doesn’t take long for a video monitor
to appear onscreen. Hey! Quit stalling, get back to work! Within the transportation industry, improvements
in technology have turned parodies like this into reality. Oftentimes it is a source of tremendous stress,
and it’s one of those stressors that doesn’t just go away. People don’t just get used to the fact that
they are being observed 24/7. We get really excited about technology holding
the promise for solving social and economic problems, and, it’s like, it almost universally
doesn’t. Or it just moves the problem a little bit. And the reason for that is when you have a
problem with deeper roots than than technology, a technology ends up being like a bandaid. When you get out and meet actual truckers,
they don’t want to have to drive excessive hours or put anyone in danger on the road. But they do want people to understand that
they get their jobs done in different ways — and surveillance technology doesn’t
always account for that. We are actually fighting for the safety of
everyone that’s on the highways, everybody that’s on the roads. We’re not fighting just to run outlaw style. Outlaw’s gone. We’re the American truckers, and we’re
here to provide everybody and keep everybody safe. I think the issue here is that there’s a technical
solution being brought to bear on a problem that is not technical. The problem here is that drivers are overworked,
and they’re not paid for all their work. They’re severely underpaid. Trying to solve that with a technical solution
feels, to me, incomplete. So, it’s like putting the onus for that problem
on the people who are most affected by it, who have the least power to change anything.


Reader Comments

  1. Drivers are a dying breed because of regulations upon regulations upon regulations. They want to regulate every one of us right oit of the seat

  2. Karen from Cornell University interviewed in the video totally gets it. Pay the drivers better so they can work reasonable hours. An ELD will not solve this fundamental problem.

  3. Workplace surveillance is a modern Frederick Winslow Taylor efficiency tool. What Taylor discovered that workers who were monitored for improved efficiency did in fact work better when they knew they were under observation. As stated in this video the robot is the ultimate goal to replace the trucker completely.

  4. I'm a truck driver but I pull a flatbed and also a step deck there is a lot of stuff that I do that I don't get paid for in a lot of drivers don't either so yeah it is I don't like the Eld either but this is just another way they can monitor us and also getting us towards the robots driving and another thing I don't like these automatics either I like a manual transmission it is so much better call me old school that's just how I am

  5. I’ve been on the dispatch/management side of this for 20 years. MAKE NO MISTAKE ABOUT IT: THIS IS 10000% ABOUT NOT BEING ABLE TO “FUDGE” THE LOGS. PERIOD.

  6. No mention of companies limiting top speed, which effectively controls the drivers time. You have this many miles, and this time frame to do it in… oh and to improve our profit ten under the speed limit.

  7. Has been used in Europe (all countries!) and proven to reduce accidents due to fatigue. Americans are just afraid of looking into someone else's experience.

  8. Why is it necessary to watch everyone every minute and who is watching them? This is too over the top for a non-paranoid society. But, if you are paranoid, get help.

  9. If this the case if a labor work works overtime, they shouldn't be able to drive home.. until 10hr rest

  10. I gave up trucking. I hated the computer in my tractor. I hated not being able to make a common sense judgment. I'm not a computer. You can have it. You won't be able to keep new truckdrivers. Just like being under arrest and warring an ankle bracelet. No way. Not me brother. Driverless trucking will be here soon anyway. Oh, never buy your own tractor today. Not worth it.

  11. I’m not a trucker expert, but seems like many of them are just afraid of change. Same laws except can’t fudge the written sheets. How about they interview a family who was killed by a trucker who fell asleep at the wheel. Seems to me that this is a common sense work day schedule setting to stop the fatigue problem.

  12. It’s eventually going to increase shipping cost, delivery times, retail, etc.
    However I still see truckers not being treated right by payers. If you truckers organize like the eld then organize to demand better treatment

  13. Truckers, welcome to the world of commercial pilots, big airplanes have 2 flight recorders for decades, one record airplane behavior,and control inputs, the other record cockpit conversations.The only thing missing is a video recorder at the cockpit. You are under paid driving a truck? The BUF crash of a code sharing airline indicate the co-pilot were getting paid about $16,000 a year, the captain about $25,000. That is after they both paid over $100Gs for training.

  14. UPDATE!!!! since this video was made the stats are in ELDs cause more accidents cause companies and the ELDs force drivers to drive when they shouldn't the log book rules are not flexible enough

  15. Government worried about highway safety yet its still legal to drive while text/talk on your phone in most states. You want to increase highway safety ban all cell phone use in all 50 states while driving.

  16. Somewhere is a lobby group paid by a bunch of greedy corporates that got this law passed. That's how effed up today's political system is.

  17. funny thing, except the location (as far as i know) we have that in europe allready called tachograaf (sorry from holland don't know the english name). Its allready in trucks for decades to limit driver fatigue as its loggin the driving hours and cops can read it out to check the driver.

  18. So get 5,000 rigs and truckers with elds and everybody crash into each other, hurting no one. The eld will be ruled a failure and the spike alone would warrant shutting it down.

  19. If truckers were paid by the hour it would solve the problem, but then the cost of transporting a load would more than triple .

  20. I drive a truck in Europe. I have a camera pointing at me a box measuring my braking and driving style, plus I’m being monitored by a tracker. As of August I am no longer a trucker they can stick it.

  21. This is what you have constantly asked for since trucks were invented.
    So what if truck drivers have to work as hard as everyone else! Welcome to America!! Don’t like it, GO HOME!! 🇺🇸💪🏻🇺🇸

  22. 14 hour work days are long enough. 11 hours of driving is enough. I love the eld. You can take a nap. You got 3 hours a day non driving. I drive 5 hours or so take a nap then knock out the other 5.

  23. I'm a transit driver. I login to my bus computer, it feeds my data to the computer, the computer monitors my adherence to the laws. It records my driving by video and audio both internally and externally but also monitors my passengers. I forget the system is even there. But i love it because i don't need to monitor my duty and driving times…the system takes care of it for me. When my dispatch wants me to do OT the computer will tell them if I'm able to so i don't worry about breaking the law…..it's all taken care of.

  24. Without tracking truck drivers take advantage of being on the clock and over all less productive. I’ve seen it first hand

  25. Truckers who think ELD's are the only way to track them have a truly moronic understanding of smartphone technology.

  26. This was the reason why I did not choose to become a truck driver, after hearing about this from a friend of mine, that, and having to pay people to unload the products once you get to where you are going.

  27. Truckers get paid by the mile because technology didnt exist to determine if the trucker was actually working. That technology exists now but they still get paid by mile. Everyones making a shitload of money except the driver.

  28. This technology is progressive for healthier lifestyle-work balance. The money saved in rest and longer health is more sustainable then medical bills, trauma, prescription and rehabilitation. We are in the era where the technology that is beneficial to society will reign and people will slowly adjust.

  29. It's just wayy to intrusive..
    If they make it AI-powered, Personalized – Expert Recommendation System, with minimal input.

  30. If you still could make a good living driving at rig with one of these it may be ok , but the new or the next gen truck driver will not know any other way , I think that is what the industry is counting on. you want big brother over your shoulder ,run a train.

  31. hours of service laws have regulated trucking since the 1930s. this is nothing new. what's new is drivers can no longer cheat.

  32. All of this is why I'm getting out of Trucking, this industry is not going up and no place for advancement, it's kind of sad

  33. Well the funny thing is the 11 hour and 14 hour clock has been in place for very long time. The guy said there's no outlaw truckers. Well when you Cheat your logs by running Multiple log books You are already an Outlaw. Falsifying log books is a crime. I understand the trucker wants to drive for 5 hours take a nap drive for another 5 hours take a nap then drive for another 5 hours. A total of 15 hours of driving. Which is already illegal. 11hr max driving. Take in account 3hr 1st nap 3hr 2nd nap total time 21hr. Personally I have Worked in a factory for 12 hours came home and did additional 6 hours work at home. Stayed up maybe 4 more hours =22hr now of that 22hr it wasn't Repetitive and trapped in a Box behind the wheel. I get where the truckers are coming from they feel they can do a 20 hour drive time job with a few naps and get the product they're quicker but the bottom line is these laws already have been in place so the fact that they're doing that 20th hour drive time with a 14 hour clock 11 hour drive time is against the law therefore they are the problem. They're just mad because now they can't falsify or pencil whip the log books. Unfortunately now the electronic device will force them into a Box which is probably a good thing for everybody.

  34. Truckers are the safest drivers. There are Perdue drivers who are in the 3 million mile club, which means they had never had a accident for 3 million miles in a row

  35. Nicely done. They should do a video on the slavery of child support exploiting mostly fathers out of time with their kids, their money, their health. Show the backward nature of our justice system and how mostly women misuse it to gain an unprecedented advantage.

  36. Old Truckers: we don't want ELD's because freedom!

    Companies: you work for us, you carry our loads, you are the middle man and you are cheap by the dozen remember this….also keep in mind that automation in trucking is coming down the pipe quicker than you think….mining trucks already have this feature.
    In conclusion drive while you can, because your ride as a middle man is almost over.

    DOT: we got facts about psychological and physiological effects of driving 11 hours in a 20 ton piece of equipment that spans in length around 63 ft +/-, we have also compiled evidence on driving while fatigued, and guess what, when your tired you have a higher chance of getting into a fatal collision then when your not tired, so in goes the ELD's and our DOT officers are going to be watching and make sure you are following the law, and if you dont follow the law you will be punished.

    Millenial Truckers: we cool with this.

    Me: I'm not a trucker, but as a commuter on the highway I expect truckers to drive safely and in accordance to the law, just like me and every other Joe, Tom, and Harry.

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