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Trending News and Stories in the World of GPS Fleet Tracking

Back To The BASICs

07/15/2015 by Sarah Barbod

The mission of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is to keep roads safe and to ensure crashes, injuries, and fatalities that involve large trucks and buses are reduced.  In order to fulfill this safety mandate, the FMCSA must collaborate with carriers and fleet managers to ensure drivers are practicing safe driving habits on the road.

The FMCSA’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program introduced the checklist BASIC—Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories—to score carriers and drivers operating vehicles in an unsafe manner so that disciplinary action can be taken. The seven measurements included in the BASIC score are: driver fitness and health, vehicle maintenance, unsafe driving, Hours-of-Service (HOS) compliance, controlled substances/alcohol, hazardous materials (HM) compliance, and crash indicator.

The score itself is a percentile that shows how each carrier compares to other carriers that have received approximately the same number of inspections in relation to their size and operation type.

In order to better identify at risk carriers, the FMCSA has announced plans to make a few changes to BASIC and focus intervention thresholds of its safety measurement categories to crash risk.

High-risk BASICs include unsafe driving, crash indicator, and HOS compliance, and will keep the current intervention threshold at 65%. But the threshold for medium- and low-risk violations will rise to 80% and 90%, respectively. The higher the percentile ranking for a carrier indicates poor performance in the CSA BASIC category.

This is currently just a proposal.  The FMCSA will accept public comment on the changes until July 29th of this year, and proceed through a preview process before issuing the final rule. If the changes do go into effect, what can that mean for carriers?

The best way to avoid being a target for an intervention by the FMCSA will be to focus on ensuring safe driving and HOS compliance.

By incorporating a GPS tracking solution to your operation, fleet owners can track HOS electronically and automatically, eliminating the potential for written mistakes in reporting as traditionally performed with paper forms. And by tracking exactly what the vehicle is doing in real-time and recording incidents such as speeding or stop-sign violation, GPS tracking software helps fleet managers identify which drivers need additional training or disciplinary action. Finally, by paying a higher per-mile rate to drivers with safe records, or providing other forms of incentives, managers can use GPS tracking software to eliminate the temptation to speed or to go without rest to cover more miles.

Ultimately, the proposed change could make the roads safer and prevent interventions from the FMCSA.

Carriers can find out what their current BASIC score is by logging in to the SMS (Safety Measurement System) website.

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The Cost Of Heavy Traffic

07/09/2015 by Oswaldo Flores

One reason for the ongoing driver shortage may be the poor state of America’s roads. A survey conducted by logistics firm National Retail Systems reports almost a third of truck drivers are being held up by road construction every day. Half report delays at least every week. It’s enough to make a person want to quit the industry, and evidently, many do.

America’s transportation infrastructure is in bad shape, with a huge maintenance backlog and persistent traffic congestion. With many roads lacking a re-route path to handle increased traffic volume, such road construction and repair are making the problem worse by causing more serious delays.

A report by the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) affirmed that poor infrastructure investments have cost American businesses around $27 billion each year in extra costs for freight transportation and shipping delays.

For truckers, most drivers get paid by the mile. Other drivers, including owner-operators, get paid by the load. Either way, sitting in traffic means money lost because time is going by, but the miles are not. Furthermore, as idling engines burn fuel, a carriers' operations and maintenance costs per vehicle rise. Not to mention the dangerous levels of greenhouse gas emissions produced from burning fuel. The American Trucking Associations' (ATA) estimates the industry is 30,000 drivers short, a number that could grow dramatically if trends continue.

Carriers not only must absorb added fuel and maintenance costs, but they must also cope with faster driver turnover.

There are many steps that trucking carriers as a whole can take to deal with the problem of roads, including supporting the rebuilding of America’s mass transit systems. But there are also things individual carriers can do to help support their drivers—one of the most straight-forward of these is to incorporate a GPS tracking solution.

With a GPS tracking system, drivers can easily communicate with dispatchers in case they need help routing to find a new way around a traffic jam. Or if a driver needs to notify dispatch about a change in schedule due to road conditions, drivers and fleet managers can stay connected with a two-way messaging system. A GPS tracking solution with a mobile tablet integration can also provide turn-by-turn directions for drivers so that there is a fast response to delivery locations and a reduction in fuel use.

Ultimately, as a country, we are going to have to take better care of our infrastructure. Reluctance to fund highway repair and true mass transit translates directly into economic losses every year. But until the root of the problem is fixed, carriers that can help their drivers avoid congested roads will at least come out ahead.

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The Promise Of Biodiesel

07/08/2015 by Caroline Ailanthus

Volvo Trucks recently approved biodiesel (hydrogenated vegetable oils, or HVO) for use in their Euro 5 engines. They hope to approve the fuel for other engines in the future, as they move to a more eco-friendly operation.

HVO is another low-carbon alternative fuel. But, unlike other alternative fuels, such as liquefied natural gas or ethanol (or all-electric vehicles), HVO does not require a specially designed engine. Any diesel engine can in principle, run equally well on biodiesel, and the two types of fuel can be mixed freely. That means that switching over to biodiesel does not require building a new fleet of trucks—and a truck that normally runs on biodiesel can be refueled with traditional diesel.

But what exactly is biodiesel, and why is it so important?

Biodiesel is either vegetable or animal oil (often waste from the food industry) that has been processed to make its consistency similar to that of traditional diesel. The term “veggie diesel” could describe biodiesel, but usually refers to unprocessed oils that can be used as fuel in a modified engine.

Burning biodiesel does release carbon dioxide, just as traditional fuels do (though usually with less soot, making HVO both cleaner and more efficient). Yet, the important thing to note is the carbon in these fuels was only taken out of the atmosphere by plants a few years ago, and if it were not burned in its plant stage, eventually bacteria would eat it and send the carbon back into the air anyway (probably as methane, an even more powerful greenhouse gas). That’s very different than the situation with petroleum products, carbon that was sequestered many millions of years ago and would have stayed that way if not extracted and used.

In practice, creating biodiesel usually involves machines that use traditional fuels, but its total carbon footprint is about a fifth that of ordinary diesel.

When it comes to a fleet of vehicles, there are other ways to reduce a fleet’s carbon footprint. By incorporating a GPS tracking system, fleet managers can monitor each vehicle’s idle time and better educate their drivers about when to turn engines off. GPS tracking solutions also offer two-way messaging and mapping features that allow dispatch to better route jobs.  

The difficulty with biodiesel is that there isn’t very much of it available at the moment because the demand isn’t very high yet. Although Volvo is encouraging trucking fleets to use biodiesel preferentially, just changing a vehicle’s fuel type is not the only manner to reduce an entire fleet’s carbon footprint.

A comprehensive solution that incorporates GPS tracking can offer total fuel efficiency regardless of fuel type. 

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3 Ways To Declare Independence From Cargo Theft

07/02/2015 by Caroline Ailanthus

On the Fourth of July, Americans celebrate liberty. Unfortunately, the holiday is also a popular time for theft groups to “liberate” cargo.  Security firm FreightWatch International reports the Fourth isn’t alone; the transport of goods tends to pause over holidays of all types, creating a situation where loads sit unattended for long periods of time, and organized theft groups are quick to take advantage.

There is no one way to combat cargo theft. Instead, carriers can create organized security plans that utilize a variety of tools. These tools include physical security, information security, and GPS tracking.

Physical Security

Keeping cargo physically secure is the first step. Locks and security personnel at warehouses to ensure loads are tied down properly are all basic security measures.  However, locks and rope cannot prevent theft all by themselves, but they can reduce opportunistic crime and force organized criminals to invest more time and effort into places where such security measures are not taken. Additionally, working with drivers and training them to follow securement protocols can also reduce outside theft.

Information Security

Thieves cannot go after cargo they don’t know about, so organized criminals actively investigate and follow potential targets, even sometimes infiltrating the staff of a company to learn the internal operations. If something unusually valuable is going to be sitting on the loading dock over a long weekend, it would be best if as few people know about it as possible. Loose lips sink ships, as they said back in World War II—or, in our case, trucks.

GPS Tracking

Modern tracking devices do wonders for catching thieves. The devices can be set to send an alert to fleet managers if a truck leaves a certain geographic area or even turns on when it shouldn’t. Teletrac’s location detection and smart anti-theft tools allow owners to investigate and, if a theft is really in progress, they can call the police. Sometimes the thieves can even be caught before they leave the lot. If not, the tracker allows police to follow the vehicle and not only arrest the criminals but, often, return the goods. The tracker itself is hidden and tamper-proof, so thieves cannot disable or remove it. Teletrac’s Fleet Director offers real-time detection and around the clock support, all 365 days per year at 1-800-ITS-STOLEN.

Although holiday cargo theft often focuses on stationary, unattended loads, it’s worth noting that in collaboration with physical and information security, GPS tracking can be a lifesaver for drivers in the event of theft. So relax this Fourth of July, enjoy the fireworks, and rest assured your fleet and cargo is safe with the help of GPS tracking software. 

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Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions With Fuel Efficient Technology

06/30/2015 by Caroline Ailanthus

The new fuel standards for medium and heavy-duty vehicles have arrived in phase II of the federal government’s initiative to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) of the Department of Transportation, acting together, released the new standards. The changes are impressive and are generally supported by the industry.

Bill Graves, President of American Trucking Associations (ATA) has said, “Fuel is an enormous expense for our industry—and carbon emissions carry an enormous cost for our planet. That’s why our industry supported the Obama administration’s first round of greenhouse gas and fuel-efficiency standards for medium and large trucks and why we support this second round of standards.”

There has been some industry concern that the new rules could force premature deployment of new technology posing a safety concern on the road, but the new guidelines will be implemented gradually and do not actually stipulate how manufacturers are to achieve the standards—they may use any combination of several existing technologies that work for them.

Of greater concern is the paradox that increased fuel efficiency can easily result in increased fuel use.

Essentially, as the per-mile cost of driving goes down, it becomes economically feasible to drive more miles. As a result, actual fuel use does not go down as much as anticipated, and could ultimately increase. The new standards are an important part of the critical fight against climate change, because they give the industry the option to dramatically reduce fuel use—but the standards alone will not ensure that anyone takes that option.

One way the industry can ensure that the new standards work as intended is for carriers to commit to reducing the number of miles their trucks travel and the number of hours their engines run. Incorporation of GPS tracking software actually supports these goals by making dispatch and routing more efficient and by making it much easier to train drivers not to engage in speeding, idling, and other behaviors that increase fuel use. Fleets that adopt GPS tracking services typically see a dramatic reduction in fuel use as a result.

The trucking industry is an especially important target for emissions reduction because medium and heavy-duty trucks produce dramatically more than their share of greenhouses gasses—about 20% of the transportation sector’s emissions—even though they comprise only about 5% of vehicles on the road, according to the EPA. The trucking industry now has the opportunity to make a major impact.

To read the specific standards and regulations and see how they apply to your fleet, check out the websites of the NHTSA and the EPA.

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On The Road To Improved Global Road Safety

06/29/2015 by Caroline Ailanthus

Road accidents are the world’s eighth leading cause of death, and that number could rise to fifth by 2030 if nothing is done. While some developed countries are bringing their traffic mortality figures down, the global numbers are going up, largely because developing countries are rapidly including technology and adapting to car cultures, but their laws and infrastructures are not keeping up with the change. Over 1.2 million people die and over 20 million people are injured in traffic accidents worldwide, according to a new report by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Traffic accidents are just as serious as the major infectious diseases, such as malaria, but they tend not to be taken as seriously, reports the WHO. Individuals often dramatically underestimate their personal risks on the road. Furthermore, national policy and even scientific research also tend to overlook traffic danger.

Currently in the middle of the initiative, the WHO is attempting to redirect attention to road danger with their International Decade of Road Safety initiative. The WHO has compiled a report on the current state of traffic accident risk in various countries and what steps individual countries can take to improve safety, such as strengthening laws on speeding, drunk driving, and the use of safety equipment. The report also calls for better enforcement of those laws, better medical care for crash victims, and standardized data collection on road safety and related topics, including traffic fatalities.

So, how does the United States compare to other countries in terms of road safety?

Some of the safest roads in the world belong to Iceland, with only 2.8 deaths per 100,000 people and just three deaths per 100,000 vehicles. Other Northern European countries, plus Spain and Japan, follow, all with traffic mortality rates much lower than those in the United States. The U.S. is on the higher side of average, with roughly 11 deaths per 100,000 people and 13 deaths per 100,000 vehicles. Canada, Australia, much of Eastern and Southern Europe, and both Uzbekistan and Bangladesh also share this rough average. Most of the more underdeveloped roads are in Africa or the Middle East, with traffic death rates per 100,000 people variously in the 20’s or low 30’s. Because some of these countries have very few cars, their traffic mortality rates per 100,000 vehicles are very high, including Chad with over 13,000, for example.

For businesses with a fleet of vehicles, keeping drivers safe on the road is a top priority. By incorporating a GPS tracking system in each vehicle, drivers and fleet managers can improve safety across their entire fleet. With added features including event recordings to capture driver behavior, and alerts to notify fleet managers when drivers are speeding or using vehicles after hours, managers can better train and coach their drivers to be safe on the road.

Doing your part in your business to create a safe environment can bring great impact, and make a contribution to the World Health Organizations’ global goal to keep our roads safe and to save as many as five million lives by the end of the decade.  

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The Best Driver Resume

06/26/2015 by Sarah Barbod

Currently, many carriers are actively looking for new drivers due to the ongoing driver shortage and high annual turnover rate among professional drivers. But no matter how eager a company is to hire, no carrier can take on just anyone who applies. There are obvious legal requirements and moreover, most companies have even higher employment standards of their own.

Carriers not only depend on drivers for the quality of their service, but the drivers are the employees the public actually sees; they carry the larger part of the company’s reputation.

In order for carriers to recruit the best talent, fleet managers should give special attention to drivers who have properly completed the following certificates and training:

  • Licenses- In many states, driving a small commercial vehicle, such as a van, does not require a commercial license (CDL) unless the load is hazardous. There are exceptions. All commercial drivers must have a driver’s license in their home state.
  • Health- Commercial drivers must be 21 years of age or older and must pass a physical exam every two years. The exam checks for good vision and hearing, among other factors. It is ok to wear glasses, but colorblindness is a disqualification.
  • Legal record- Prospective drivers may not have a criminal record involving drugs or motor vehicles. DUI convictions are also an automatic disqualification.
  • Good communication- In the US, professional drivers have to be able to read and speak English at a level to read road signs and talk with police officers. They also must understand the Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.
  • Experience- Many carriers look for employees who have at least three to five years of experience driving a truck. But of course, a recent recruit to the industry needs to start somewhere and a good compromise is for a carrier to offer its own training program to help get new drivers up to speed.
  • Schooling- One way a new driver can develop his or her resume is by attending a school for commercial driving. Not all such schools are reputable, however. When interviewing a graduate of a truck driving school, it is important to ask about that school’s curriculum, especially how many hours of actual driving its students complete.

Schooling is especially important, since a good school can make a huge difference in an applicant’s skill set, while a bad one is, at best, irrelevant. Make sure the school was properly accredited, that the program was at least three weeks long, and that the training is actually relevant to the type of driving the employee will do.

These are just a few things to consider when pooling through driver applications to choose the right talent for your fleet. 

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HOS Exemption Presents New Challenges For Drivers

06/26/2015 by Caroline Ailanthus

Is it fair to place the welfare of the cargo above the welfare of the driver? That is the riddle posed by new exemption that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has just granted to part of its hours-of-service (HOS) rule. And, like all good riddles, the answer depends on the reading of the question.

The exemption applies to interstate haulers carrying live animals, generally livestock or bees; the drivers no longer have to take a 30 minute break in their first eight hours of driving. The issue is that the animals depend on the airflow generated by the moving truck to keep cool. Extended stops could sicken or even kill them, especially given that long-distance travel or shipping is already very stressful for livestock. And stopping for 30 minutes can be too long for these livestock and bees to sit idle.

But the purpose of the 30 minute break is to give drivers a chance to rest and stretch their legs in the middle of an extremely long, extremely demanding shift. Without that break, their risk of health problems and traffic accidents increase—and that is true no matter what type of cargo they are carrying. Is it really fair to the drivers to deny them such an important protection of their health and safety?

And, perhaps just as important, do we really want to risk drivers falling asleep at the wheel of a truck that is full of hundreds of bees?

But there is a practical issue here that renders all questions about human and animal rights debates; the point of these hauls is to transport live animals from Point A to Point B. And driver versus cargo welfare is, in fact, the wrong question.

HOS regulations were implemented to improve safety on the road and reduce driver fatigue. Drivers have a tough job. And staying healthy and well-rested while out on the road can be a challenge. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported high rates of obesity among long-haul truck drivers. To help monitor driver behavior, GPS fleet tracking solutions offer fleet managers insight into their vehicle and driver activity. Fleet managers can use the data to implement efficient driver training programs and coaching. With these solutions, managers can view metrics including, speeding, harsh braking, sudden acceleration, and stop sign violations, further alerting manger to particular drivers who need help.

But, with the 30 minute exemption granted through June 19, 2017, we’ll have to wait and see how drivers and livestock travel together under the exemption.


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ATA Trends In The Trucking Industry

06/23/2015 by Caroline Ailanthus

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) recently released its annual report, ATA American Trucking Trends. According to their report, the news for the industry is quite good.

The big story is that last year, trucking totaled $700.4 billion in revenue, well above its pre-recession peak of $660.3 billion—and the first time the industry has ever broken the $700 billion mark. The increase has allowed carriers to reinvest in their companies by upgrading their fleets. Newer fleets have better average fuel efficiency, improved safety mechanics, and more trucks with high-tech features, like GPS tracking and collision avoidance systems. Class 8 truck orders were actually the second highest in history last year, at 375,000 units.

Trucking as a whole employs over 7 million people, almost half of them drivers. For perspective, that means that the pool of American truck drivers is now almost as big as the entire population of Los Angeles. Yet still, there is a shortage of drivers. Carriers could hire many more if they could attract and retain more qualified people.

And yet, the total capacity of America’s cargo trucks is still a lot lower than the pre-recession peak. That means that while total capacity is growing, the added revenue comes in part from shippers paying higher rates. Overall, America’s trucks still move less cargo than they did eight or nine years ago.

American trucking is worth watching, not just for industry insiders, but for anyone interested in the economy as a whole. According to the ATA, 68.8% of all domestic freight moves on trucks and over 80% of freight spending goes to trucking. That means that both the price and the total volume of most goods sold or processed in the United States are intimately connected with the health of the trucking industry. As for the roads themselves, in 2013, commercial trucks paid over $16 billion in Federal highway user fees, aiding in funding maintenance and upkeep of U.S. highways.

This sector drives, and is directly driven by, the strength of the economy as a whole.

Still, the trucking industry itself makes an important and fascinating story. For example, since Deregulation, the number of carriers has ballooned to over 1.3 million. And yet the revenue of the largest 50 of these grew faster than that of the industry as a whole in recent years. Nearly 17% of the industry’s total revenue goes to these 50 companies alone.

For those who want to explore further, the full Trends report is available for purchase from the ATA’s website.

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A Look At Liquefied Natural Gas

06/19/2015 by Caroline Ailanthus

China has been investing in liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a fuel for a new generation of its highway trucks. The technology is likely to come to the United States, since LNG is much cheaper and more available than petroleum-derived fuels, like conventional diesel. Since the availability of oil is expected to fall over the coming decades as the demand for fuel rises, alternative fuels are only likely to get more attractive.

But is LNG really the way to go?

Natural gas is often presented as a “greener,” more carbon-friendly energy source. That is at least partially true; natural gas is mostly methane, which has fewer carbon atoms per hydrogen atoms than any other fossil fuel—meaning that it produces less carbon dioxide per unit of heat when burned. But using natural gas almost always allows some gas to leak out unburned, and methane is a more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide is. Harvesting natural gas, often through fracking, causes its own environmental problems.

Ultimately, LNG is probably better, both environmentally and financially, than conventional diesel. But, it still carries a real environmental cost. Whether it makes sense to invest in any new technology that is not truly carbon-neutral is controversial.

And no matter what fuels trucks use, it is obviously better, both financially and environmentally, to use less. To that end, there are steps carriers can take, whether or not they also take on LNG-burning truck engines.

Carriers that adopt GPS tracking software consistently see dramatic reductions in fuel use through three main channels:

Liquefied natural gas is, at best, a stop-gap, a bridge to a genuinely carbon-neutral future—one in which cargo transportation itself will probably have to be very different than what the U.S. knew in the 20th century. Using GPS tracking solutions to make either existing technology or alternative fuel—or flex-fuel trucks—as fuel-efficient as possible is both another bridge to cross, and more than a bridge- no matter how the transportation industry changes, efficiency will always be an advantage.

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Keeping An Electronic Eye On The Road

06/18/2015 by Caroline Ailanthus

According to a new National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report, collision avoidance systems should soon be standard on both commercial and passenger vehicles. This is only a recommendation the NTSB has issued, not a requirement, but the report does call attention to how preventative measures can be taken to avoid serious accidents.

In the report, NTSB states that in the accidents involving tractor-trailers they studied, almost 80% of injuries could have been lessened or avoided entirely by collision avoidance systems.

What these systems do is recognize the presence of a hazard, such as a stopped or slow-moving vehicle, in the lane ahead and warn the driver. If necessary, the systems can initiate or assist in braking. Although these systems already exist, they are not standard. More simple systems that offer only collision warnings are available as well.

The reason collision-avoidance can make a difference is that the rear-drivers in these collisions typically do not notice the hazard in time to stop. Some are distracted, some were speeding, some were exhausted, and others were dealing with poor visibility or other interferences. The initiative is to provide some aid to the driver’s ability to focus so that accidents can be prevented.

Rear-end collisions injured 500,000 individuals and killed 1,700 people in 2012 in the United States. There were a total of 1.7 million rear-end crashes in the US in that year alone, according to the NTSB. That is a lot of inattentive drivers.

Logically, many of these drivers are not aware of that fact that they are not paying enough attention to the road. No one wants to get in an accident. But drivers are human, and humans can overestimate their skill as drivers and downplay the importance of unsafe habits such as speeding or texting while driving.

That is bad news for fleet managers who, until recently, had no way to know which of their employees was an accident waiting to happen.

By incorporating a safety analytics system into a fleet’s GPS tracking system, drivers and fleet managers can improve safety across their entire fleet.

These tracking systems offer a way around the problem by helping fleet managers identify which drivers engage in unsafe behaviors such as running through stop signs, speeding, or excessive acceleration and breaking. These events can be viewed from a GPS tracking systems’ dashboard that records and displays events. Fleet managers can use these recordings of unsafe driving incidents in training sessions with drivers so they can coach their team to perform better.   

Dangerous driving habits are not only problematic in and of themselves, but they also could indicate drivers who are not paying attention. A driver who usually performs well but occasionally seems to become erratic might also be indulging in cell phone use or some other distraction.

With GPS tracking data, fleet managers can offer supplementary training to those who really need it, to make sure that their employees really have their eye on the road—whether or not a collision-avoidance system has its electronic eye on the road as well.

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Is The Trucking Industry Ready for Autonomous Semi Trucks?

06/16/2015 by Caroline Ailanthus

The autonomous 18-wheeler is here. Well, sort of.

In May, Freightliner and Daimler unveiled the Inspiration truck, a prototype Level 3 autonomous vehicle, to much fanfare. The implication, clearly, is that the next generation of technology is here and about to hit the roads. The future, in which trucks can drive themselves, has arrived.

Of course, the truth is not that simple. First of all, the Inspiration truck is not a driverless truck, nor does anyone have any plans to build a true driverless truck in the foreseeable future. For now, the objective is not to remove the driver but to make driving a bit easier by transferring some (not all) of the work to a computer and a sensor system under very specific conditions. This opens opportunities for drivers to organize their day-to-day business including scheduling pickups and drop-offs, making reservations for lodging, completing inspection reports, and reducing distractions to keep the driver and the general public safe on the road.

The closest thing to a driverless truck that anyone even anticipates is what’s called a Level  4 autonomous vehicle. Such a truck would need its driver only to select a route and to be on hand to take over in case of emergencies. A Level 3, such as the system on board the Inspiration, is essentially equivalent to the automatic pilot on an airplane. It can keep the truck in its lane at a safe following distance behind other vehicles and it can slow or stop if traffic conditions require it.

In principle, the driver could set the truck on autonomous mode in order to make a phone call or eat while still behind the wheel. But since the autonomous system cannot respond creatively to developing problems (it cannot, for example, notice debris or objects that may fall off a vehicle up ahead) and is not aware of anything outside its lane, the driver will absolutely have to stay behind the wheel and remain fully attentive for the entire trip.

For now, Freightliner’s autonomous system is even more limited than that, for both technical and legal reasons.

Not only are autonomous trucks only allowed, even for testing purposes, in a small minority of states, but even when states do start permitting these systems for commercial use there is no guarantee that they will all do so together. The three states at the forefront of regulating self-driving trucks—Nevada, California, and Michigan—allow the use of these trucks at once, that will do trucking companies no good at all. And no matter what the legal situation is, the Inspiration Truck has not been tested in anything other than clear, daylight conditions. The system is not yet ready to be deployed.

At some point in the foreseeable future, autonomous trucks may be able to correct for all-to-human errors, such as moments of inattention or drowsiness. They will not leave human drivers out of a job, not for a generation, if ever. What these systems might do is make driving less exhausting and less dangerous for drivers. 

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