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How job surveillance is transforming trucking in America


Vox has released a fascinating video focusing on how job surveillance impacts trucking in America.

Video Questions How Being Watched Impacts Truck Drivers

From the video: “We work in a world with devices that can monitor us, locate us, and tell us what to do; that raises the questions, who watches you work?

How does work change when you know someone is watching you do it? There is one industry that is asking that question more than ever – trucking.

Over time automation with dramatically change work for the 3.5 million truck drivers in America, until then truckers are going to be monitored and managed by computers like never before.

One truck driver told Vox, “It is like wearing an ankle bracelet where you are being tracked every move you make.”

Another said, “We are against [this ELD] law because it is ruining our truckers’ lives.”

“We need the government to move out of the way and let you be a success,” another protested.

Vox explains the impact that ELDs have on a truck driver’s work day, noting that, “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.

Karen Levy, from Cornell University, said, “Oftentimes when we talk about automation in trucking and other workplace contexts, there is a big concern about a massive spike in unemployment.”

She explains that with an increase in work done by robots, there is a spike in unemployment.

She then states that a more realistic integration of robots in the workplace is gradual. “So you do see robots starting to get integrated into the work, but not in a sudden way. That invites a 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.”

“The longer drivers go without a break, the higher the rate of fatigue-related accidents. So the [ELD] system was designed to limit a trucker’s driving time to fit natural sleep patterns.”

Levy explained that if someone sat down with a traditional paper driving log, they could surely figure out how to falsify a driving log with ease. There is no way to falsify an ELD log or to change driving time without higher approval.

Vice claims, “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.”

A truck driver, Lori Franklin, said, “As 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 snowstorm, your hours are ticking.”

“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. [It could be] argued that further research is needed before changing the law that sets drive time.”

“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.”

Another invasive piece of truck driver-watching tech has also recently surfaced. Smartcaps  can monitor truck driver fatigue by analyzing a truck driver’s brain. BHP’s chief technology officer, Diane Jurgens, said, “If you think about a baseball cap, and then on the inside of the cap is a strip, about six inches wide, and it sits on your forehead and it actually can measure your brainwaves and look at the change. And there are patterns that show fatigue, over time.” Read more about SmartCaps here.

For truck drivers, a truck is not only a workplace but a home. Decreasing job availability by implementing autonomous driving and higher surveillance greatly threatens thousands of truck drivers across the nation.

“People don’t just get used to the fact that they are being observed 24/7,” Jack Aiello, from Rutgers University, said. Not only is the trucks driver’s workplace under fire, but a truck driver’s lifestyle as a whole is in danger.


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