The use of automated surveillance in trucking has placed more stress on drivers and has failed to improve safety, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association told the Office of Science and Technology Policy.
In May, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, which advises the White House on technology issues, issued a notice asking for feedback from the public “to better understand automated surveillance and management of workers.”
OOIDA used the opportunity to inform the agency about its opposition to the electronic logging mandate, as well as its concerns about the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s efforts to expand the ELD mandate and require all trucks to be equipped with electronic IDs.
“OOIDA appreciates that the OSTP is examining the potentially harmful effects of automated surveillance on workers, but truckers have reason to doubt that the federal government and the Biden administration are really listening to them about these concerns,” the Association wrote in comments filed on Thursday, June 15. “Currently, there are two open rulemaking processes within the U.S. Department of Transportation that would expand the mandatory surveillance of truck drivers.”
The FMCSA began requiring ELDs in most commercial motor vehicles in 2017. Since then, crash statistics have largely moved in the wrong direction.
OOIDA relayed its concerns about the information collected by the ELDs and the additional stress the devices have placed on truck drivers.
“These devices are hardwired to a truck’s engine and automatically record information about the truck and its operation at all times,” OOIDA wrote. “By law, this information must include date, time, location, engine hours, vehicle miles and identification information for the driver, authenticated user, vehicle and motor carrier. ELD manufacturers are permitted to self-certify their devices, and MAP-21 contained no restrictions on what information could be collected by private industry or how they could use the information.”
The Association added that the data collection has not made the highways safer.
“This automated surveillance has yielded no benefits for truckers or the public,” OOIDA wrote. “While ELDs have improved compliance with some federal regulations, safety outcomes have worsened. Since the ELD mandate took effect in 2017, the total number of fatalities in large truck crashes has slowly but steadily increased, even when adjusting for the number of miles traveled.
“Aside from having no safety or wage benefits, this automated surveillance puts even greater stress on drivers. Drivers’ moments can now be monitored down to the second to allow scrutiny and second-guessing under the guise of compliance with federal regulations.”
Proposals for increased automated surveillance
In 2022, FMCSA issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking that considered ending the ELD exemption for trucks with pre-2000 engines as well as other revisions to the mandate.
“The FMCSA has initiated a rulemaking to revise ELD regulations to both expand the type of data that ELDs would be required to record and require data to be recorded at more frequent intervals,” OOIDA wrote. “This would allow employers to collect even greater information about their employees under the illusion of a government mandate.”
Also last year, the agency issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking looking at the possibility of requiring all trucks to be equipped with electronic ID technology capable of wirelessly communicating a unique ID number when queried by a federal or state motor carrier safety enforcement personnel.
“In other words, the federal government wants to mandate trackers on truckers so that they can be remotely monitored at any moment by law enforcement,” OOIDA wrote. “Due to the absence of any research demonstrating how this technology would improve safety, the motivation for pursuing this rulemaking appears to be nothing more than adding convenience for the enforcement agencies. This creates concerns about the potential for unreasonable search and seizure violation of drivers’ privacy rights under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”
OOIDA said the additional use of automated surveillance in trucking opens the door for further breach of privacy, especially when you consider that the truck can often serve as a trucker’s home while on the road for months at a time.
“There are few, if any, other professions where federal, state and local government have the right and ability to see what a worker is doing at any given minute,” OOIDA wrote. “But even worse, these types of policies are a foot in the door for employers to use expansive tracking technology.
“Outside of work functions, drivers may also use their truck for personal reasons under personal conveyance. If an employer continues to collect data, such as location, while a driver is off-duty, this could be used to learn about potentially protected information such as an individual’s political or religious affiliation depending on when and where they park the truck.”
OOIDA also cited the book, “Data Driven” by Karen Levy, which examines how digital surveillance is upending life and work for truck drivers.
Levy’s interview with Land Line Now can be heard by clicking below.