Everyone these days expects prompt and efficient shipping, and truck drivers are the backbone of the overland shipping industry: “You bought it, trucks brought it,” as the saying goes. Moreover, tractor-trailers are ubiquitous on our roads and our constant driving companions. That’s why technologies that allow truckers to do their jobs safely and efficiently should be lauded by everyone, and recent innovations in trucking technology offer much to be excited about. Here’s a glimpse at the latest trends in trucking technology.
At the forefront of the surge in trucking technology are sensors—many, many sensors that increase the safety of the vehicle and simply make life easier for the driver. Among the most exciting innovations making their way into the trucking world are:
- Lane departure warnings that alert drivers when the truck’s tires drift into another lane. This feature is particularly helpful when going around curves or when driving on particularly narrow roads.
- Automatic emergency brakes that are activated when the sensors predict an impending collision. The truck will halt before rear-ending the vehicle in front, but it will do so abruptly, so drivers should certainly be wearing their seatbelts at all times.
- Truck to truck wireless communication systems that allow two trucks to sync up and drive within twenty feet of each other. This “platooning” effect can result in up to 10 percent greater fuel efficiency for the trailing vehicle thanks to improved aerodynamics.
- Driver attentiveness sensors that can detect when a driver’s attention is waning. Such a situation can quickly become dangerous, and the solution is to get some rest, take a walk or simply do anything other than drive. If you seem to need a break, the trucks of the future will literally tell you to do so.
- Autonomous trucks that are capable of driving themselves in certain conditions, particularly in slow traffic. This feature can allow drivers to relax somewhat before their full attention is once again required in order to get the show on the road.
Telematics and Mobile Apps for Truck Drivers
Telematics is the process of collecting key data on the performance of the vehicle that trucking companies can use to gain insight into the efficiency of their fleet, such as how well the trucks’ engines are running, how fuel efficient the trucks are on average, and the standard turnaround time on deliveries. Analyzing such data helps the companies make changes that will ultimately improve their performance and their bottom line. Therefore it’s no surprise that the field of telematics has become even more of a priority in the trucking industry over the last few years.
On the other hand, there are several mobile apps on the market that are designed to give the actual truck drivers an advantage. Apps like the LinkeDrive PedalCoach app help drivers find the “sweet spot” (or, in the case of this app, the “green spot”) of speed and acceleration to maximize fuel efficiency. According to LinkeDrive, using the app can save up to five cents per mile. The savings can add up quickly.
With such a focus on fuel efficiency and saving money, it’s important for truckers to be able to find the least expensive gas prices in a given area. The GasBuddy app solves that problem by listing nearby fueling stations for any given location, and also gives users the ability to sort these stations by price, distance, etc.
The KeepTruckin app removes the need for paper logs and also allows time sheets or mile logs to be sent to the trucking company instantly. Long gone are the days of mailing logs to the office for processing. What’s more, the app will alert drivers if they are approaching the cutoff point for the Department of Transportation’s hours of service regulations.
For drivers making multiple delivery stops, the Route4Me app ensures that you don’t waste time by doubling back or going out of your way to get to each location. The app maps the most efficient route to save on fuel and time.
There are also many apps that act like back-haul classifieds for truckers. These apps make it possible for drivers to secure a second load destined for their home base (or nearby), meaning they can make extra money rather than hauling an empty truck.
This is, of course, just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to apps designed for truckers. Apps are great problem-solving tools and an advantage to any driver.
Clean Drive Technologies
Diesel has long been the go-to fuel for the trucking industry thanks to the greater fuel efficiency of diesel engines. But diesel engines also emit high levels of particulate matter, which pollute the air. With so many trucks on the road at any given time, the trucking industry has had to take a long look at itself and to explore alternative fuels. These fuel alternatives or innovations in diesel tech are known as clean drive technologies and include the following:
- Ultra-low sulfur diesel fuels have been around for a decade or so, and in some countries all available diesel is the low-sulfur variety. Advancements in making diesel fuels burn cleaner are being made each year.
- Biodiesels, such as dimethyl ether or algae-based fuels, are available in some areas as well as an alternative to diesel.
- Liquid natural gas is an alternative that is efficient but expensive, and in terms of sustainability, it is a non-renewable resource just like oil, which makes its future use as a diesel alternative limited at best.
- Hydrogen fuel cells are currently being tested as a viable fuel alternative, and Diamler has seen some promising results in this area.
- Emissions treatment systems clean the exhaust before it is released to the outside through a series of filters, catalysts and temperature controls, and highly efficient recycling systems are being improved all the time to send exhaust back into the combustion chamber as a temperature control, thereby lowering the amount of Nitrogen Oxide emissions.
- Filter regeneration is a new process that helps keep emissions filters clean, as this is the only condition in which they can successfully prevent harmful pollution from escaping into the air.
Trucking is an industry with many exciting opportunities, and not just for the folks behind the wheel. Whether you’re an app developer, a diesel mechanic, an experienced driver or an aspiring truck business owner, there are many useful innovations in trucking technology that can enhance your time on the job.
This is a guest post from Katrina. a professional business writer and publisher from Los Angeles.