Modern truck technology has evolved from a century-long quest for greater control and visibility of drivers
In 1971, a CCJ editor spent the day with private detective Ed Hegarty to report on an ongoing surveillance project. Earlier that year, the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association had contracted with Hegarty to detect time abuses by drivers in Philadelphia.
As part of the labor agreement with the Teamsters Union, fleets were paying drivers 13.7 cents per minute in overtime. After months of tracking and tracing vehicles for PMTA members, Hegarty found a regular clique of drivers moving around the city to find hideaways – usually a rundown diner or steakhouse. These drivers were “sitting” on the job for 90 minutes or more in the afternoon.
“I don’t go into the places they go, except once when curiosity got the best of me,” Hegarty said. “When I saw the big blonde behind the counter, I knew what the major attraction was. You can bet it wasn’t the food.”
After spending his days playing hide-and-seek with the Teamsters, Hegarty delivered reports to the fleets that subscribed to the service. The reports showed unit numbers, time of day, duration and the place of vehicle sightings within the Philadelphia commercial zone.
“This is the only way the companies can find out how their drivers are spending their time,” Hegarty said. For the record, Hegarty did believe that fleets using two-way radios appeared to maintain a closer check on drivers, but in any case, his reports sometimes would show drivers miles away from where they were supposed to be or what their logs indicated.
In the past 100 years of CCJ, commercial and private fleets have espoused many ideas and strategies to keep tabs on drivers. In a 1936 article, one fleet manager said drivers always knew someone could be following at any time to check for speed, road conduct and activities at stops. Other fleets contracted with private agencies to stop drivers and make on-the-spot inspections of vehicles and logbooks.
Today, onboard computers, mobile communications and other technologies can do all of this and more without any human involvement. At first glance, these modern-day technologies appear to be a quantum leap from the mechanical devices once used to track drivers. In reality, the technology is the culmination of a century-long quest to put the boss in the cab.
Soon after the first vehicles rolled off the production line, speed governors quickly became standard equipment. Some editors, guest writers and advertisers in early CCJ publications classified drivers as “inexperienced” and “incompetent.” Governors were seen as no-brainers for anyone interested in reducing accident liability and fuel consumption.
“Just as long as truck drivers are allowed to speed recklessly through the streets or race along country roads, it is useless to expect anything but inefficient and unsatisfactory motor truck service,” stated an April 1917 advertisement from Pierce Governors.
The hubometer was another early technology to check driver behavior. These devices typically were installed in the cab for drivers to see, but the main purpose was to track operating costs by vehicle and driver. Comparing drivers to established fleet standards for cost per mile was a way to “weed out the inefficient, careless or crooked (drivers),” according a 1915 advertisement by an early hubometer manufacturer.
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