Truckers Exist Under Watchful Eyes in a 'Keg of Dynamite'

Automation, poor work conditions have turned industry into 'dystopian nightmare,' per 'NYT' op-ed
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 15, 2022 12:32 PM CDT
For Truckers, Life Is a Constant Surveillance State
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/vitpho)

(Newser) – The trucker convoys that overtook Canadian and American cities, led by drivers upset about vaccine mandates and COVID restrictions, may have seemed to emerge out of nowhere. Not to actual truckers, though, who tell Robin Kaiser-Schatzlein that such requirements were simply the "straw that broke the camel's back" in an industry plagued by subpar working conditions, low wages, and a constant state of surveillance that the New York Times columnist says has evolved into a "dystopian nightmare." Kaiser-Schatzlein notes the inherent risks involved in cruising along in the tractor-trailers known as "40 tons of death," with driver fatigue a key factor leading to fatal accidents.

Experts say that fatigue has been caused by the fact that this once decently compensated, unionized job with regular work hours is now one known for low wages, fewer union-supported drivers, and workweeks that can see a driver behind the wheel for 100-plus hours—all of which also translates to high turnover. Automated systems meant to keep drivers safe—everything from cameras that watch if drivers are looking at their phones, to sensors that automatically turn engines off at night—are supposed to enhance safety, but instead just make truckers feel like Big Brother is always watching. Circling back to those trucker convoys, then, the "trucker rebellion" all seems to make sense, writes Kaiser-Schatzlein. "Trucking has been a keg of dynamite waiting to explode for 39 years," one longtime trucker tells him. "I'm surprised it took this long." Read the entire piece here. (Read more truckers stories.)

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