Because his truck is fitted with a refrigerator unit, Dick Pingel often hauls food: usually sausage or cheese, products long associated with his home state, Wisconsin. He’s been a professional trucker for 30 years, covered over three and a half million miles, and never had a single chargeable accident.
“One of the reasons that most of us came out here, myself included,” he explains, “was because of the independence. After the Vietnam War, a lot of vets came out here. It was probably because they didn’t want somebody peering over their shoulder all the time.”
But Pingel, along with more than three million of his fellow truckers in the United States, is facing a regulatory upheaval which will cost his industry an estimated $2 billion and fundamentally change the way he does his job. Over the next few years, it will become mandatory, by law, for all American truckers to carry a tracking device, an electronic on-board recorder (EOBR), in their vehicle. And Pingel isn’t happy about it.
Truckers are on the forefront of workplace surveillance. With the availability of cheap sensors and hypercompetitive companies seeking to maximize their profits, any human action done on the clock may become subject to increased scrutiny and what will probably be called optimization. If you want to see the future of work, take a look at IBM’s efforts around call center workers or the battle over electronic armbands at Tesco in Ireland. It’s not that data hasn’t always been used in corporate decisionmaking, it’s that it’s possible to capture so much more now. With more data, comes more control.