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CTA on Panel Discussing Future of Trucking

The transportation technology for modern-day society to look like an episode of The Jetsons is already here, but the infrastructure and public appetite to support that kind of environment is a long way off, reports Truck News in an article featuring a panel discussion at this year’s Surface Transportation Summit.

Paul Kudla, regional v.p. of Volvo Trucks North America says technology makes drivers safer and attracts the younger generations into the driving profession.

“I believe we’ve made it easier for drivers to drive safely…we’re trying to put every technology into the trucks now that helps the driver do a better job and stay safe on the road,” he said. “Because without an automated transmission, by the end of the day (driving with a clutch) you’re worn out…. Plus, young folks love technology, so the more we can add in to the trucks…it’ll make it more attractive for them to drive.”

Justin Bailie, president and co-founder of Rose Rocket, considers every sacksful company, regardless of sector, to essentially be a tech company.

“Every company is a tech company,” he said. “Because you can’t sell, you can’t market, you can’t transport products or services without technology. We all use technology as consumers and suppliers, so the risk of not thinking that way and not embracing that, is being irrelevant to your customers.”

For Rick Geller of Marsh Risk Consulting, said timing is everything when you talk about adopting new technology.

“Timing is critical and it’s important to understand how to leverage technology so it compliments your business model,” he said. “Act too soon, you end up exhausting resources…wait too long and you miss the revolution. There’s a number of video rental companies that missed streaming.”

Marco Beghetto, v.p. of communications and new media for the Ontario Trucking Association and the Canadian Trucking Alliance, said the industry would do better at adopting new technology if the provincial and federal government worked on giving incentive to early adopters.

If the government is serious about the environment and safety, then there is certainly  a case to be made for providing incentives for early adopters of some of this technology which offers societal benefits on both of those fronts.”

When the subject turned towards self-driving vehicles, the panelist agreed that just because the industry has proven the ability for a truck to roll down the highway without human intervention, it doesn’t mean such technology will replace drivers anytime soon.

Beghetto said CTA is attempting to shift the conservation away from driverless truck and focus more on advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) as a tool to support drivers in improving safety and reducing the stresses of driving a truck.

He explained that a truck driver is required to do much more than hold a steering wheel, such as control access to the vehicle, maintain security, balance loads, secure cargo, communicate with first responders, perform mechanical and cargo related inspections, address mechanical breakdowns at roadside, communicate with customers, and deal with border crossing processes.

He likened the evolution in trucking to the aviation industry many years ago, pointing out that automation didn’t displace pilots.

“The first autopilot was invented in 1914, but, yet here we are over 100 years later and we still have pilots; and I bet most people in this room like it that way,” he said.

Kudla echoed those sentiments. “… Ninety-nine percent of an airplane flight is done by a computer. But the day a pilot isn’t in it, I’m not getting on that plane. Every one of the major OEMs has trucks running autonomously, but to have trucks on the road without drivers in them concerns me. And I don’t know if our governments or infrastructure will ever let that happen.”

Asked what government are most concerned with in planning for automation, Beghetto said government are focused on the impact to labour markets, updating infrastructure systems and consistent vehicle manufacturing standards as well as security in a post-9/11 environment.

Ritchie Huang, manager of engineering and safety in the compliance and regulatory affairs division at Daimler Trucks North America, agreed that automation won’t drive out truck operators anytime soon.

“From the Daimler perspective, we don’t see the driver being out of the picture for a very, very long time,” he said. “There is a need for the driver. We look at automation as building blocks, and it is a very slow process. You hear a lot of hype, and press about it, but we don’t believe that these self-driving trucks or driverless trucks will be here any time soon. The reason being there is not enough safety data out there. For us, it’s important for us to know how these trucks will impact society and reduce crashes (before they are allowed on the road).”

— Adapted from Truck News. Full story here

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