By Katie Fitzgerald of RNZ
Experts are sounding the alarm over a social media trend that sees truck drivers livestreaming their drives on TikTok.
Users on the social media platform can go live once they have 1000 followers, and it has seen some drivers sharing their trips around New Zealand.
RNZ has seen multiple instances of drivers livestreaming their trips.
Sometimes they are quiet, other times they are interacting with written comments, gifts and likes from livestream viewers.
Mosh Social Media training and campaign manager Oli Garside said there was money to be made in livestreaming but it depends, and the returns can be low.
He said there was probably a social element also driving the trend.
“I would imagine the truckies would be doing that simply just to have somebody to talk to.
“You spend hours and hours in a cab all by yourself, that social connection piece can be a bit lost. Whereas if you go live on like TikTok or Instagram or whatever, it’s almost like having somebody in the cab with you to have a conversation with.”
Similar behaviour in Australia prompted horror earlier this year. A reporter from the Daily Telegraph found truck drivers taking their eyes off the road to read follower comments.
Garside said livestreaming can be easy to set up, but interaction with viewers was when it becomes a problem.
“Once you’ve actually set the live up it’s hands-free, you don’t actually have to be holding your phone to do it.
“If you were wanting to interact with the audience though, or answer any of their questions, then yeah, you’d have to be looking at your phone screen because they can only interact with you via text.
“They write comments, and the live streamer can see them as they come through and respond to them.”
Ia Ara Transporting New Zealand is a representative body for road freight carriers in New Zealand. Its interim chief executive Dom Kalasih does not mince words about the practice.
“I’m horrified, actually. TikToking while you’re driving, it’s going to be a significant distraction and it increases the risk to yourself and other road users, so our recommendation is don’t do it.”
Truck driver Stephen Clemens is working on an app to help link drivers up with passengers in an attempt to quell loneliness.
He said there were plenty of reasons why drivers should not be using social media for social connection on the road.
“Driving a car, you’ve got two mirrors to look at, you’ve got a lot of people in front of you, behind you and the whole lot. The difference is in a truck you’re doing that with 40 or 50 tonnes behind the wheel.”
Kalasih said truck drivers should make journey plans before they set out, and if they were lonely, make use of options like the radio, or take a break.
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