The Log Book Safety Lie.
By G. Ray Gompf
Ask any bureaucrat or politician or CEO of a trucking company and they will tell you flat out that logbooks are a solution to a safety issue. That safety issue is “tired drivers”.
I contend that that log books have nothing to do with safety and everything to do with doing something that will confuse the general public into thinking the aforementioned bureaucrats, politicians and CEOs are spinning the truth for their own purposes.
In the US, log books were brought into use in the 1930s to prevent overzealous employers from demanding their drivers go beyond that which is reasonable. At the time, 10 hours was a good compromise but it was still sort of arbitrary. Also, the 10 hours of driving in the 24 hour clock became not just the maximum but the minimum. Is the world safer as a result? Well, that remains to be seen. What happened was CEOs (through those under them) started to demand double log books and frankly until the early 80s, there was no real way to verify or even audit log books. And if there was a charge laid because of log book manipulation it was always the driver that was charged and paid the price. Even though he (and yes, in those days it was always a he) was threatened with the loss of his job if he didn’t do the companies bidding. Safety? I don’t think so.
Enter the mid 80s. Canada brings into existence the need for log books and virtually copied the American legislation that had been on the books for fifty plus years. Why reinvent the wheel especially when almost all Canadian drivers were familiar with the log book regulations in the US and complied with the US regulations while in the US. The only difference between the US and new Canadian regulations was the length of the driving day for the driver. Instead of this arbitrary ten hours, Canada settled on thirteen hours of driving for every 24 hours cycle.
I can remember sitting in committee in the mid 80s and listening to the rhetoric, the spinning if you will, on why we would have a 13 hour driving day for Canadian truckers. Those CEOs at the table were saying things like “Well, if we allow them 13 hours in the day, then they can do a Toronto/Montreal turn in one shift”. It struck me strange they’d be settling on 13 hours because it’s exactly 26 hours of driving time between either Montreal or Toronto and Winnipeg; or, two driving shifts. It didn’t take into account that through Northern Ontario in the winter time there are blizzards of considerable magnitude and the road through said Northern Ontario is a two lane cow path that takes one through every town, villages and hamlet along the way. Between North Bay and Nipigon there are two roads, Highway 11 and Highway 17; from Nipigon west to the Manitoba border, there is but one.
Now isn’t it curious that Canada’s logbook hours of service was set at 13 hours? Why wasn’t it set at 12 that split the 24 hour cycle as half for working and half for resting? That might have been justifiable, but no, these CEO lobbied and got a 13 hour driving shift because it saved them a whole day of shipping time between the eastern markets and the western markets. Isn’t that a poser? And who says that politicians make all the decisions? Not even close, all politicians are lobbied into making decisions not in the best interest of the voters themselves but in the way business wants to operate.
Before Canada brought out log books, every trip I did, I was handed a piece of paper with my running orders along with a tiny little white envelope attached to it. The first time it happened I asked “what is the purpose of this little envelope?” “Just in case you need it” was the answer. Well, I ripped the envelope from the running orders and threw it on the dispatcher’s desk. After that I was on the black list and was only given the hardest possible runs. At least I could do the runs on my terms, safely without being awake for four days.
Once I was given a running order in which I had to drive from Winnipeg to Toronto in 18 hours. Because I had been a rebel and refused the little white envelopes, if I didn’t do the runs I was assigned within the time frame they assigned, I was not paid for the entire run. Since it was my truck not their’s and I paid the fuel not them, I felt this arrogance was beyond offensive.
I went to the yard to find the trailer and did a super inspection on it then left Winnipeg and drove a full shift and stopped at Hearst and had a full compliment of sleep. Which meant that when I got up in the morning I was supposed to be looking at Toronto just a spit down the road. Yet here I was still just slightly over 12 hours away from my destination. My running order schedule meant that I was to be at the Toronto yard at noon. I called the dispatcher in Toronto to appraise him of my whereabouts (now this dispatcher is not the same person that dispatched me from Winnipeg although they were in contact on a regular basis) as I was supposed to do. He asked me where I was and I told him I was in Hearst. He said, “you’re going to be late” and I replied to him “No, I’m not going to be late at all. Late is when you have to find another truck, another driver and oh I don’t know, eight or ten lumpers to unload my trailer from its resting place 600 yards out in the bush and then find a tow truck to pull my truck and trailer out of the bush and hopefully I’ll only be in the hospital and not dead. Now that would be late. I’ll be there at midnight no ifs, ands or buts. Do you have a problem with that?” “No, Ray, I’ll make sure you get paid for this load too” came his reply. He had known that I had been given an impossible task and he liked that I had the intestinal fortitude to stand up to the bullying.
This is what CEOs did with the logbook legislation. It certainly isn’t the spirit of the regulation and certainly isn’t the way the politicians think it works. It’s time for drivers and companies now to get onto the same safety page and get some rules and regulations that both promote safety not just from the spin doctor’s point of view but from the reality point of view.
Safety is not something that can be faked.