Date Posted

September 8, 2022

Dave Elniski
Industry Advisor, Safety & Compliance

I find it interesting how quickly I can focus on one part of the industry.  Take Alberta’s dual registration program, for example (which, pardon my unapologetic plug, can be found at this link).  Dual registration became my biggest focus when I was working on that bulletin, and I’ve found it useful in work I’ve done with carriers since it came out.

Focus was good for that bulletin and good for my job.  However, another thing that can happen to me when I focus on a particular task: narrowed vision.  This is when the thing I’m working on becomes disproportionately large compared to other things on the go.

When I was a flatbed truck driver, safety and compliance weren’t as much a part of my work as they are today.  My whole job now is about occupational health and safety, National Safety Code, and helping employers manage hazards.  But, while safety was always a value of mine when trucking, I had many other things to consider, too.  Customer service.  Tracking my mileage.  Planning my trips.  Figuring out my pay.  And driving the truck, which was, for me, a two-handed, two-legged, all-five-senses activity.

Working in fleet safety management gave me a new perspective on trucking.  I learned more about the different roles in the office and grew a greater appreciation for safety and compliance.  I continued to occasionally drive and, when I did, saw things like delays and paperwork differently and with greater patience.

One thing that did happen to me, though, was I sometimes lost my sense of balance.  Safety and compliance overshadowed all else.  At times, I made mountains out of molehills while failing to see what was going on in the peripheries.

Safety and compliance are, in my opinion, the most important value a carrier should embrace.  But here’s the thing: people who appear to disagree with this opinion are not necessarily unsafe.  For example, we can’t say someone who appears disengaged during hours-of-service training but becomes attentive when the topic shifts to pay is more at risk from driving while fatigued.

There were times when I had a hard time making a distinction like in the example above.  I would be so concerned with the training I was about to deliver, all the research I did to prepare, and my interest in the material that I’d forget others were not nearly so interested and invested in it as I was.  Upon reflection, I’d remind myself that a regulation is only a single, small part of a driver’s job.  Important, yes.  But the only important thing?  No.

It’s easy to get caught up in a topic and see it with greater intensity than others.  It can also be disappointing to realise others are far less interested.  I think it’s natural to get a little out of balance like this; but, it’s important to try and restore this balance.

While issues regarding safety and compliance need to be addressed, the many different pressures and realities facing drivers and other carrier staff shouldn’t be ignored.  Trying to understand those we work with can help temper our responses to what we perceive as big problems.  Since drivers control trucks, carriers have no choice but to ultimately trust them to do it safely.  Micromanaging some things and over-emphasising others isn’t good for trust.

Our work and immediate concerns are somewhere in the big picture.  It’s good to know where our part lies, and then step back to take it all in.