It’s no secret among those in the trucking industry that there is a desperate shortage of qualified truckers. Most truckers are nearing the age of retirement, and very little fresh talent is entering truck school and passing the CDL test. Despite a considerable unemployment rate among the States and practically zero unemployment among those seeking qualifying trucking jobs, the need deepens yearly. The need is so great that many trucking schools are offering their services for free in order to fill the need. Many industry analysts recognize the impending crisis of a continued trucker shortage.
This employment gap is widened with the recent HOS regulations, since employers will need to hire more truckers to compensate for lost hours. One analysist with CNN estimated that this would deepen the trucking hiring problem by about an additional 100,000 new driving positions. This is on top of the fact that the turnaround rate of long-haul truckers in 2012 averaged a whopping 98%.
How should lawmakers make truckers accountable for Hours-of-Service regulations?
Trucker accountability has always been a concern among lawmakers. Given that truckers often work above 70 hours per week and operate heavy loads on a daily basis, making sure that truckers aren’t fatigued by limiting their hours of service might seem like a wise option. But in fact, truck driver accidents have been steady since the 1970s – yet they remain the main justification of equipping trucks with EOBRs, or electronic on-board recorders. More importantly, four out of five accidents involving trucks have other vehicles at fault rather than the trucker.
Legislators are making truckers 100% accountable by mandating that truckers have an EOBRs equipped in their rigs. This device records their position via GPS, logs their hours, and allows instant transmission of this information to law enforcement. Unlike the tachographs favored by European drivers, these devices are tamperproof and more fully functional.
Are EOBRs the answer?
Some trucking professionals criticize hour restrictions and EOBRs for different reasons. Many make the point that everyone manages fatigue differently; others point out that these systems can always give false readings and be exploited. However, many trucking professionals believe that the better answer to ensuring that drivers remain accountable and avoid fatigue-related incidents is by making fatigue coping training a greater part of the CDL process.
Most states’ CDL programs already make higher standards of physical and mental well-being for truck drivers a priority over drivers of standard vehicles, and this includes a greater tolerance and management of fatigue. But there are also several professional programs that deal exclusively with managing fatigue. Is better fatigue management training the answer for greater truck accountability without sacrificing employee hours?
What do you think: Are EOBRs the ultimate answer in trucker accountability, or does their effect on trucker unemployment make improved training programs the better solution in reducing fatigue-related truck accidents?
Hank Barton is a second generation trucker-philosopher with a penchant for the written word. He enjoys blogging about long haul trucking, safe driving practices and life on the open road. He writes for E-Gears, an online CDL Test authority that specializes in a variety of study guides.