When it comes to supply chains, there are a handful of things that the average consumer really tends to take for granted. One of them is the hard work put in by our semi-truck drivers. This type of essential work isn’t often thought about until something happens and our shelves are suddenly a lot emptier than normal.
Believe it or not, the trucking industry has been around for well over 100 years. Nearly since there have been roads to drive on, entrepreneurs have been using trucking to move products to market. Over that time, a great deal has changed, and the trucking industry has largely adapted to remain an important part of our economy.
These adaptations have altered nearly every aspect of modern trucking. Things from the modern comforts and technologies in trucks to the demographics of people and industries involved in the process. Read on for a more in-depth look at what’s new in modern semi-truck driving.
Truck Driving is Changing
Truck driving is hard work that often takes employees far away from their homes and families for substantial portions of the year. It isn’t necessarily an easy job either; most people imagine trucking as a whirlwind adventure that allows you to see large swaths of the country. While this is true to some degree, meeting tight timelines and driving responsibly often means there isn’t time to really enjoy the scenery. It takes a special person to want to do the job.
Traditionally, truck drivers have been white males, but this is changing rapidly. As older, experienced drivers are retiring, a lot of companies are working hard to attract a younger, more diverse generation of drivers into the swing. This transition is essential to keep products moving; more and more trucks are needed on the road to keep up with the economy.
The drive to remain competitive in tight markets can really take a toll on drivers. Many are forced to walk a thin line between meeting the demands for moving products and getting it done in a safe way. Numerous regulations have been put in place over the years to limit the number of hours a driver can work in a day in addition to improving the safety of vehicles by introducing weight limits and improved features.
Back in the day, the idea of a comfortable trip for truck drivers was somewhat laughable. The first versions of semi-trucks ran on solid rubber tires. In addition to that, many of the roads they were driving were not paved and mechanical braking was the standard; it sure made for one rough and wild ride. It’s amazing anyone survived at all!
Aside from the profound benefits of upgrading to modern tires, paved roads, modern suspension systems, and air brakes, there was a huge gain in fuel efficiency and a lowering of maintenance costs. Between this and major engine advancements that came with the Mack truck, it became more and more reasonable for people to take on the job of moving products around the country in bulk.
Comfort has also increased in a very real way for those who are making long-haul trips over multiple days or weeks. Modern-day semi-cabs are completely enclosed and often have a standard sleeper space in them. Before that, drivers were often required to spend their own money to sleep in motels or to sleep out under the stars wherever they chose to stop for the night.
If there is anything that is currently revolutionizing the modern trucking industry, it is the advances in technology that are taking over. All sorts of new tech are constantly being implemented in trucks to help them move in a more efficient manner with greater safety. Tools are being put in place to ensure drivers are following the rules as well, which has been received with numerous mixed reviews of the drivers themselves.
One of the most interesting advances that has started to make its way into the mainstream is the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the industry. AI can play a pretty interesting role in fleet management because it can be used to track freight and map the most efficient route in real-time. It is also being used to monitor and improve driving behaviors in the following ways:
- Tracks unwanted driver behaviors such as speeding and sudden speed shifts
- Reduces the number of miles driven
- Improves dispatch services
- Limits the likelihood of lost or stolen vehicles
Technological improvements are also being used widely in mechanical settings. Take, for example, the use of the asTech scanners. The scanning device is plugged into the vehicle and returns an itemized print out of what is wrong with the vehicle. In theory, it can save a lot of time and money because mechanics no longer have to spend time digging around diagnosing problems. In the semi-truck world, this can help a driver get back on the road more quickly with less money lost to mechanical fixes.
The history of semi-truck driving is a long one, but it has long been a critical component of how business is conducted in the United States. Fortunately, over the years, numerous advances have been made to improve both the comfort and technology of trucks. Over the coming years, new and exciting changes are surely on the horizon. What do you see coming next for the semi-truck?