Regulations and a driver shortage have put the squeeze on carriers, which means some important innovations in trucks are starting to emerge.
It does not appear that these pressures on the industry are going away any time soon. The ongoing driver shortage was estimated at 47,500 drivers at the end of 2015, according to the American Trucking Association. And it’s expected to get worse. Over the next decade, companies are faced with hiring 890,000 drivers, as the aging workforce retires and companies lure away existing drivers with higher pay, signing bonuses and attractive routes.
Adding to these pressures are regulations, either in effect or coming online the near future.
- Compliance, Safety and Accountability (CSA) program: Rolled out by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in 2010, carriers are evaluated based on a number of factors, including crash history.
- Electronic logging devices: Carriers and drivers will be required to have electronic logging devices (ELDs) synchronized with their engines starting Dec. 18, 2017, meaning carriers will be more accountable for drivers’ hours of service, which is also monitored by the CSA program.
- Speed limiters: A rule requiring speed limiters on all trucks weighing more than 27,000 pounds is currently in review at the White House’s Office of Management and Budget. This would cap truck speeds at 65 mph.
Going forward, trucks and drivers alike will need to be more productive. The Wall Street Journal has identified a few new innovations that will save on time and resources:
- Remote prognostics: Thanks to computer technology, drivers can know the health of their trucks in real time. If the diagnostics identify something going awry with the engine, the driver can use a database to find the nearest repair facility. Problems can then be identified and fixed before they become large and costly. Drivers can cut down on downtime by avoiding bottlenecked repair facilities. And there’s also a safety benefit: fewer roadside breakdowns, resulting in fewer collisions.
- More automated trucks: Some truck makers are installing new automated systems to cut back on driver fatigue and reduce crashes. With these systems, computers can do the shifting and initiate braking, as well as alert drivers when nearby vehicles shift lanes. In one prototype, a computerized steering mechanism kicks in on hills and windy stretches of highway, which is taxing on human drivers.
- Platooning: With the help of computers, trucks can save fuel by driving close together. This is where two or three trucks follow each other closely, and the rear trucks, since they are shielded from wind drag, can save up to 10 percent on fuel costs. With this technology, the lead truck controls braking and acceleration while the other drivers maintain steering.
Over the next few years, you will see the industry responding to the dual pressures of staffing and regulation. At Choptank Transport, we know that compliance and a willingness to evolve will be key to a carrier’s success.