It seems like almost every day I read another article about new technology in the trucking industry. I read stories about self-driving trucks, automated warehouses, tracking apps, and fleet management systems, to name a few. These systems do the work of hundreds of humans at lightning speed, accident and error free, or at least that is the end goal.
Trucks will always break down, no matter how automated they become, because they are machines with thousands of moving parts and these parts fail. Even driverless trucks will get stuck in traffic jams due to accidents, construction, weather or just too many vehicles trying to get to the same place at the same time. That being said, there are a lot of great technological advances that have made driver’s lives much easier. Along with making them easier, they are making trucks safer for the driver and the motoring public. Manufacturers are adding things like speed sensing radar that helps maintain a truck’s safe following distance while the cruise control is on, without the driver having to think about it. There are now lane departure systems that will move the truck back into its lane if the driver starts to drift over and sensors that detect objects in blind spots give the driver a warning before changing lanes.
Other technology that has made a difference in the industry are driver-facing cameras and electronic logging devices (ELDs). Driver-facing cameras activate when there is a hard braking incident and record from a few seconds prior to the incident to a few seconds afterwards. I remember when this technology was just coming out and the industry was up in arms about it, mainly because it would show if the driver was distracted and if that contributed to the accident. On the flip side, what many of the drivers didn’t realize was that this technology could be used to prove that the driver was not distracted and that it was caused by another vehicle, an animal, etc. ELDs also caused a lot of uproar with drivers by taking away the leeway provided by paper logs. Many drivers left the industry because they didn’t like the government mandates behind the law. I agree that there is too much government regulation in the industry and unfortunately for the foreseeable future, that will not change. But one of the things that ELDs have allowed us to do as brokers is fight for detention for our partner carriers. Customers can no longer use the excuse that a driver was late or released on time because we can use the time stamps on the ELD to show that the driver was onsite before his appointment or that he was not released until the time we are claiming.
Many of the new technologies have not been welcomed with open arms by the trucking industry. Most arguments against technological changes have come from the fact that they were forced on carriers, by government regulations, instead of coming from inside the industry. Carriers also struggle with the cost of adding new equipment to their fleets, along with the cost of training drivers, dispatchers, and mechanics on how to use and maintain new systems. Drivers have objected because part of the reason they chose to drive for a living is the ability to control their own schedule without a boss looking over their shoulder all day. Professional drivers have always enjoyed the autonomy of the job and a lot of the new technology seems to be taking that autonomy away.
This is an ever-evolving world and industry. I am sure this discussion about technology in trucking has been going on since the second truck ever produced hit the road. There were drivers and carriers who were against diesel engines, air ride suspensions, air conditioning, cruise control, power steering, automatic transmissions, computer-based dispatching equipment, cell phones and thousands of other advances that have happened over the last 100 years, and that are now considered industry standard. All of these advances have made our lives easier, more comfortable, and even safer than previous generations.
The point of all this is that there will always be change, especially in trucking. It’s one of the reasons I have stayed in the industry for more than 20 years. The key to adapting to new technology is finding the positive things that advancement brings to the industry and not always focusing on the negative.