The writing on the wall
I remember thinking at the time, God, the music those Ruskies listen to is HORRIBLE! And, more to my point, Geez, does EVERYONE over there have a dash-mounted video camera?
Turns out, yeah. They do.
In Russia, these days, a good way to make a quick ruble is to throw yourself in front of an on-coming car and collect a nice little insurance settlement. Also, it’s accepted that having a video record of a car accident is very good thing in court proceedings.
There are already a smattering of fleets here that use dash cameras. Could the practice become widespread?
I’d say yes, given the ever-decreasing size and power of digital video recorders and the obvious benefits a video record would have for a driver seeking to prove they weren’t at fault in an accident. All in all, I’d say get ready for this one. It’s a no-brainer.
What about EOBRs? The mandated use of on-board data recorders is already a hot topic here in the States and most drivers are firmly opposed to the idea.
If you’re in the “opposed” group, you’re not going to like what I’m about to tell you next: Based on what I’ve seen in Europe, an EOBR is only the first step of what will eventually happen here.
In Europe, each and every CDL has an imbedded electronic chip on it. Moreover, a truck cannot be started unless said CDL is fitted into a slot on the EOBR (usually mounted on the bulkhead over the driver’s head). It’s a bit like sliding a card into an ATM – only it stays there the entire time the truck is in operation.
Once in position, the electronic chip on the CDL copies and stores data off the EBOR for a specific period of time. If you get pulled over by the Polizei, the first thing they do is scan your CDL to see what you’ve been up to. Got an Hours of Service violation when you tried to stretch things a bit the other night? Or did you drive too fast through a commercial area three days ago? It’s on that chip. And you’re going to get a ticket for it. It doesn’t matter if the cop actually witnessed the crime or not. He’s got electronic evidence in hand. And you’re busted!
Another technological inconvenience European drivers have to put up with are on-board breathalyzers. Mostly this is a Swedish thing right now, but it looks like it’ll spread across the rest of Europe fairly soon.
And it’s exactly what you’re already thinking: Each truck in a fleet is equipped with a breathalyzer. Once the driver’s CDL is in the EOBR, the truck still won’t start until the driver blows into a breathalyzer tube and passes. Oh, and don’t flunk. Because the unit will beam a “Fail” message to fleet HQ if you do and you’ll probably get fired.
Most drivers I know here would object to this purely as an affront to their professionalism. On the other hand, a slip of paper in a courtroom proving a driver wasn’t impaired at the time of an accident is probably worth 40 million times its weight in gold. So, it’s hard to argue in terms of pure, cold Vulcan logic.
Will we ever see these technological impositions here? I’d say yes, to one degree or another. For older drivers, who remember trucking’s glory days, these “advances” must seem incomprehensible. But those guys are few and far between and getting scarcer by the day. And new drivers just entering the workforce today really don’t and won’t know any better.