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What’s Down The Road?

By on January 1, 2018
stability control

Educated Guesses from Deep within My Crystal Ball

BY: David A. Kolman, Senior Editor

LIKE OTHER INDUSTRIES, TRUCKING IS RELENTLESSLY EVOLVING, WHILE BECOMING EXCEEDINGLY MORE COMPLEX. THIS IS DUE, IN LARGE PART, TO THE ADVANCEMENT OF TECHNOLOGY, WHICH HAS A PRONOUNCED INFLUENCE ON SHAPING AND REVOLUTIONIZING THE FUTURE. AS EMINENT PHYSICIST ALBERT EINSTEIN OBSERVED: TECHNOLOGICAL PROGRESS IS LIKE AN AXE IN THE HANDS OF A PATHOLOGICAL CRIMINAL.”

At the end of the 20th Century, who could have imagined these commercial vehicle advances: clean-diesel technology, adaptive cruise control and active cruise with braking, GPS and global systems for mobile communications, DuraSeal technology for commercial truck tires that instantly seal punctures, electronic-stability and roll-stability control systems, electronic vehicle inspection reporting, remote diagnostics, electronic logging devices, autonomous trucks, and truck-platooning technology?

Prophecies

What technological innovations can trucking expect for the future? I dusted off my trusty crystal ball and took a look-see to gain some insights that enabled me to make some predictions:

Power Solutions – Look for more new fuels and more green-energy options, including combinations of diesel, electric, hybrid, hydrogen and fuel cells. Cummins will have a fully electrified, Class 7, urban haul tractor—the AEOS—available in 2019 and plans to introduce an extended-range version of this vehicle in 2020. Tesla’s all-electric, heavy-duty truck—the Tesla Semi with a range of 300 to 500 miles—is slated for production in 2019.

Zero-Emissions – Interest in hydrogen power for heavy-duty vehicles will gain momentum. A partnership between Nikola Motor Company and Bosch will lead to the 2020 production of the Nikola One and Nikola Two—Class 8 hydrogen-electric trucks said to deliver more than 1,000 hp and 2,000 lbs/ft of torque with zero local emissions. Toyota will advance its Project Portal concept hydrogen fuel cell, zero-emission, Class 8 truck. It generates more than 670 hp and 1,325 lbs/ft of torque, having a gross combined weight capacity of 80,000 lbs and an estimated driving range of more than 200 miles.

Telematics Systems – In the continuing battle to increase truck uptime, reduce downtime costs and improve vehicle efficiency, trucks will become smarter. Use of vehicle telematics systems and connected vehicle services will expand, including prognostic capabilities, plus safety and productivity solutions.

Truck Driver Shortage – The demand for truck drivers—a persistent challenge—will further outpace the supply of qualified drivers, impacting the industry’s ability to add capacity. The shortage could increase to 175,000 by 2025. Trucking and government will come together to find solutions to this problem, including more robust training programs, possible reduction of the Interstate driving age, increased apprenticeships, and greater outreach to veterans.

Driver Retention – This will endure as a top priority for trucking. Fleets will continue to look for additional ways to combat driver churn, aside from pay increases and sign-on bonuses.

Driver Distraction – Distracted driving’s impact on highway safety will remain a concern for trucking as more portable electronics, vehicle infotainment systems and in-vehicle systems technologies—such as voice-commands and touch screen features—come to market. These take a driver’s eyes and attention off the road and hands off the wheel, increasing crash risks.

Diesel Technicians – The scarcity of diesel technicians will also continue as more technicians retire and fewer workers enter the field of truck maintenance and repair. This will result in increased vehicle downtime, inefficiency and dissatisfaction among drivers, plus customer service problems. Efforts to develop ways to make becoming a diesel technician an inviting career option will be ongoing.

Truck Parking – The growing shortage of available truck parking will continue, creating dangerous and costly situations for drivers who are often forced to drive beyond allowable HOS rules or park in undesignated and, in many cases, unsafe locations. Addressing this problem will include such technological solutions and services as parking apps for smart phones, online reservations, and adoption of smart-parking technologies.

Transportation Infrastructure – The crumbling state of the nation’s infrastructure will endure as a critical issue. Poorly maintained roadways and bridges and traffic congestion create wear and tear on vehicles, driving up repair costs, wasting fuel, increasing emissions, inflating travel times, causing additional stress for drivers and negatively impacting industry productivity. Because outlays from the Highway Trust Fund—the main funding source for highway and transit infrastructure—have outpaced revenue from taxes, penalties and interest, government and the trucking industry will come together to find innovative financing mechanisms.

Intelligent Transportation Systems – Intelligent vehicle and intelligent infrastructure technologies—including vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) connectivity through the application of advanced wireless and transportation technologies—will evolve further. So, too, will expansion of automated features in vehicles and transportation systems, creating safer vehicles and roadways by enhancing crash avoidance capabilities; developing
methods and strategies to increase transportation efficiency, including autonomous vehicle technologies; and managing traffic flow and reducing congestion.

Automotive Cyber Security – Greater emphasis will be focused on protecting automotive electronic systems, communication networks, control algorithms, software, underlying data and advanced forms of automation and connectivity from malicious attacks, damage, unauthorized access, manipulation or anything else that might cause safety concerns.

We Shall See

As you know, predicting exactly how trucking’s future will play out is an impossible task. However, by looking in the right places and taking into account a wide range of factors and considerations, making some educated prognostications about what lies ahead is possible. Save this issue of RoadKing, and take a look back in, say, five to 10 years to see how accurate the old crystal ball gazer’s or geezer’s predictions were.

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