Round-up: Plea for common sense at the counter of knowledge, bucking the blockchain hype machine, more

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“Really, I don’t see anything new except the tracking. If you used a reputable broker before and checked in when you arrived at the shipper/receiver and when you left, there really was no question as to the time involved. I see where guys who really are no more than company drivers leased to carriers – and see the brokers as the enemy — would not call with updates. [Blockchain] probably would help their lease company collect. But to owner-operators who are in the business mode of thinking, it’s likely to be really just an added cost for no valid reason.” Phil Killerlain, via Facebook, responding to Overdrive Editorial Director Max Heine’s recent post about the promise of blockchain to mitigate supply-chain finger-pointing around issues of dock detention and more.

Killerlain wasn’t the only reader to write in about blockchain recently — California-based produce broker Pam Young commented in part on just where a lot of watchers see the technology putting information to new uses, in that area Killerlain noted as perhaps new: documenting the tracking history of freight, and particularly where making such a history available to supply-chain parties — and ultimately, potentially, consumers — stands to be of perhaps the most utility, food safety.

“While I am not sure about how yet to integrate food safety compliance with this technology,” Young noted, illustrating the still early-days nature of a lot of the blockchain-related thought on cases where it could be used. At once, “I think it is the perfect solution for what needs to happen.”

Young went on to reference comments from the Blockchain in Transport Alliance in my January feature on the technology and potential places where it could see use: “From your article on Jan. 8, [Chris Burruss’] comment about why people enter into contracts (‘we don’t trust each other’) is true sometimes, but often, it’s equally to make sure that details that matter to both parties are spelled out, which helps each party meet the other’s expectations.”

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Burruss was detailing the notion of “smart contracts,” i.e. the baking in of those details of contract expectations into secure, automated systems, expediting payment upon completion of terms, making completion events available for both parties to access. (Find the full story from January in several parts via this link.)

Young went on, bringing to mind the recently invoked notion that automation is coming faster for brokerages than carriers: “I definitely agree that anyone not understanding the role of technology, particularly those of us working with small fleets and owner-operators, will be left behind.”

Generational turns at the ‘counter of knowledge’ and a plea to regulators, drivers for common sense 
Owner-operator Gordon Alkire has been quoted in the pages of  Overdrive from time to time since at least 2006, the year I joined the staff here and Alkire was an oft-relied-upon source of then-colleague John Baxter, among others, on issues of maintenance and more. (Regular readers may well recall his self-designed closed greasing system, too, which I wrote about a few years ago.)

Gordon AlkireGordon Alkire

He sent along the following considered note last night containing what he calls “things about trucking and opinions of mine.” As he wrote, “After reading articles and listening to some drivers I began to put stuff down.” Here goes….

Every now and again we all get to hear some counter of knowledge experts just getting into the trucking field. They have all the fixes and answers at hand. The stories have gone from the “You ain’t gonna believe this” and “I called the U.S. Marshals” variety to the hours and ELD stories. Life is good as long as you can keep a smile. Some things just don’t change. But the subject matter is ever-changing, isn’t it. The one glaring negative change is the loss of camaraderie among drivers today. Communication from driver to driver is a lost ability.

Highway accidents are part of life on the highway, like it or not. Stuff happens. A majority of accidents between trucks and automobiles are caused by the automobile driver, not the truck driver. Even the knuckleheads in government know this. We just hope and pray it doesn’t happen to us. If you ask 20 people how to reduce the highway accident rate, you get 35 solutions all related to the trucker instead of the real cause for most accidents.

When we are sharing the road, we are surrounded by stupid. Not all of it is in an automobile. We see it every day. When the idiot driving like a nut sees a marked cop car, and they are instantly a perfect driver. They really do know how to drive safely. They just choose not to. They intentionally drive aggressively any other time. Far too many have no patience to be safe. This too is done by too many truck drivers, some so ignorant they actually blame the ELD.

Speaking of the ELD: Does an ELD really make a driver run faster? Speed in the parking lots, race down the road, take chances they wouldn’t ordinarily take? An ELD does not make you drive when tired, nor does it make you speed in parking lots. The drivers themselves make those decisions. They made them prior to the ELD and can still make them in spite of the ELD. If they choose to.

Compare the ELD and the GPS. Both are tools used in trucking. Neither one makes the driver do anything. When these tools are used properly, things go well. If not, the driver’s world comes tumbling down. GPS put him on the mountain top. No, it didn’t. The drivers put themselves on the mountain top. The driver did not use the most important tool in the vehicle — his brain.

Among the many tools available to drivers is one that is missing from far too many trucks: it’s called common sense. It’s been disappearing from not only trucking but nearly all aspects of driving and drivers. It is a shame there is not a common-sense test when applying for a CDL. Do you think the accident rate would go down if there was such a test?

In short, Alkire urges haulers of a similar mind and sympathetic regulators and legislators to push for sensible hours regulations that allow for flexibility in rest choice, which might well serve to enable that common sense to rear its head again from slumber, he says:

Attach the hours of service to the ELD and you have a serious problem no amount of additional training can fix. Drivers push to the last minute to end the day then wonder why there are no parking spots for them or why do I have to pay to park? Easy, they should have stopped up the road sooner. Really, it’s OK to think for yourself. Stop today at 3 p.m. instead of 6 p.m. You easily find a place to park, you leave earlier after your 10 and have parking when you shut down again. Fairly easy fix, but stopping when they have hours left to drive is against many drivers’  self-imposed rules. Got time? I got to go, got to go. Being able to stop the clock at the driver’s discretion is one answer. But being able to stop it more than once should be allowed. Got an upset stomach? Got the green-apple quick step? Like stopping once is going to fix that. Yeah, right!

Back in the days when we had the respect for everyone, including police officers, we had fewer issues, fewer accidents. We had control of our trucks and our bodies and how we wanted to run. We worked as our bodies told us we could. Some drivers could work longer days, some drivers shorter days. We had the ability to think for ourselves. We did not have technology doing it for us.

We could stop the clock as often as we felt as a person we needed. We were not robots.

If you did not drive a truck back in that time, well, listen close. Like many of the drivers from the Knights of the Road era, I am tired of your uninformed, no-first-person-experience opinion and your complaints that we cheated. We had paper logs, yes, but we had plenty pride. We had respect for the job. For the carrier we worked for, for ourselves. –Gordon Alkire

Your thoughts?