After globe trotting in search of stories about the cutting edge of global truck development, Diesel News’ US Correspondent, Steve Sturgess, is back in the USA to check out what’s what at the American Trucking Association’s Management Conference and Exhibition (MC&E).
The exciting part of the annual MC&E is the exhibition, a packed convention centre series of halls showcasing the latest technologies to help trucking operations improve efficiency.
Each year the show changes with different technologies taking centre stage. The big surprise was the number of driver camera systems on display in many booths. This emerging technology is also seeing a proliferation of suppliers of hardware and software and different solutions to suit fleet needs.
Some fleets want a forward-facing dash-cam to maintain a record of the movements of traffic interactions to protect themselves against fraudulent claims of truck driver at fault in an accident. But there are also rearward facing camera systems that observe the driver at work so that safety staff can pinpoint risky driver behaviours.
I would have thought that this big-brother intrusion into the driver’s environment would be strongly resisted but conversations with several suppliers revealed that drivers, on the whole, are not at all resistant, especially if the driver cam had a forward-facing function as well to support a driver’s account of an accident that was not a driver error.
The driver shortage rose to number one position in the top ten Issues report released at the ATA meeting. The driver shortage is estimated at 50,000 currently but the industry is super-alarmed that this is projected to rise to 175,000 by 2026. With a shortage of 175,000 drivers, “the industry is in for a lot of hurt,” said Bob Costello, ATA’s chief economist. Given the key role of trucking to commerce, “so is the economy.”
This is being in part addressed in a campaign by ATA under the banner “Trucking Moves America Forward,” a public awareness campaign to focus on the importance of trucks on the nation’s highways and the need for infrastructure investment in the industry’s workplace.
Again, this is no different from other countries around the world and most certainly from Australia. And just like other countries, the trucking industry is concerned about congestion which, in the United States, is a huge problem. “Recognising that the trucking industry hauls 70.2 per cent of the nation’s freight tonnage and 79.3 percent of freight revenues, the state of the nation’s roadway infrastructure is a critical issue for trucking,” states the analysis in the ATRI Top 10 report. “Poorly maintained roads and traffic congestion create wear and tear on vehicles, waste fuel and increase emissions, create additional stress for drivers, and negatively impact industry productivity. ATRI research estimates that congestion-related delays cost the trucking industry $74.5 billion in added operational costs during 2016.”
To put it another way, this level of congestion at the choke points around the country is equivalent to 425,000 drivers sitting still in their trucks for a year!