Driving for Dummies?
When it comes to trucking technology, I've got control issues
by David A. Kolman, Senior Editor
TRUCKING WAS TRUCKING back when I began in the mid-1970s, and plenty of fun. Bouncing along the roadway, shifting through the gears, blowing smoke. Air conditioning was rolling down the windows and turning the dash-mounted fans to high. What trucker didn’t enjoy the “sweet” smell of diesel exhaust on a cool morning or evening?
Back then, safely piloting a rig took concentration and required a variety of skills. Nowadays, it seems that technology is managing trucking so that we don’t have to experience it.
Diesel exhaust is being sterilized.
There are collision avoidance, lane departure warning and stability control systems. Intelligent transportation technologies monitor and manage physical assets and information flows. There is asset tracking to monitor the location and status of tractors, trailers, chassis, containers, and in some cases, cargo. On-board status monitoring checks operating parameters, cargo condition, and attempts at load tampering.
Radio frequency identification (RFID), smart cards, weigh-in-motion and nonintrusive inspection technologies simplify and speed operations at terminal gates, highway inspection stations and border crossings.
Technologies integrate data from cameras and road sensors, and use display technologies to monitor congestion, weather conditions and incidents.
Web-based technologies and standards are being used to facilitate the exchange of information related to freight flows.
Undoubtedly, advances in electronics, computers, information technologies and wireless telecommunications have improved the efficiency, reliability, and security of freight transportation, and increased a driver’s and truck’s connectivity. But it seems like the driver is being given fewer and fewer duties and responsibilities. Not only that, but technology is taking the fun out of trucking.
I know of truckers who are becoming more complacent behind the wheel, figuring they have all this technology handling a lot of driving decisions for them.
I wonder if truck drivers will eventually become obsolete. Won’t happen, you say?
Do you realize that unmanned ground vehicle technology is already under development? So are automatic guided vehicle systems. These use technology to ensure that the vehicle always knows its exact location in relation to its designated route, using electronic planning maps, and when in motion, using odometry to measure the distance and direction traveled.
Come to think about it, maybe all this technology will put some of the fun back into trucking. Incorporating the latest in entertainment technology in the cab will help truckers pass the miles as they are driven along in self-guided rigs, waiting to arrive at their destination so they can sign the delivery papers.