I obtained my CDL in the 1980’s.  Much has changed since then even the name of my license as it was then called a chauffer’s license.  The trucks that I drove in the eighties have changed from me adjusting to fit the truck to the truck changing to fit me.  Now fast forward to 2017, the trucks have really changed to become a partner instead of something we had to master.

Within a few seconds, I can adjust everything to fit me from my husband’s 6’2” height down to my almost 5’4”.   As I turn the ignition to the on position, I listen as the truck goes through the pre-checks, the same as I did when I did my pre-trip. Then I move the key to the run position as listen as the engine quietly comes to life.  Our partnership begins as I shift the truck into drive.

As we pull out of the truck stop there is a great view out the windshield of the traffic ahead of me, to the side of me.  Using our cameras, I can monitor what is behind the truck and if there is anything in my blind spot.  There is also a camera inside the box to monitor how the freight is riding.  Our day is beginning with confidence, using turn signals, we pull out onto the interstate, that is when it gets really good.

First, we get up to speed and set the cruise control when safe to do so.  Once the cruise control is set the truck does not take over, we work as a team much more so than we did in the past. The safety accessories we have in the truck are monitoring the lanes, the cars in front of us, as well as our speed.  When a car slows down in front of us, the trucks adaptive cruise kicks in and we slow to match the vehicle in front of us speed.  This is not always desirable and at times, I say to the truck, nope I have this, and gently touch the accelerator.  I can see that the vehicle is moving across my lane and will not impede my progress.  As soon as the vehicle is out of range I let off of the accelerator and cruise resumes.

Now that the Freightliner Cascadia and I have been partners for several years, I have learned that before changing lanes the turn signal is used.  If I forget to use the turn signal the lane departure warning system (LDWS) immediately reminds me that I am crossing out of my lane with an audible warning.  In the beginning years, it was immediately noticed that when we reached for something, often we unintentionally wobbled in our lane.  The LDWS is also an indicator long before we know it, that we are getting drowsy as we meander within our lane. We know it is time to stop and take a break.  Personally, I cannot imagine not choosing to have a LDWS in our truck, especially as a team driven truck.  The audible warning that we are drifting out of our lane gives us plenty of time to correct a situation before it becomes an incident.  The LDWS was truly an eye opener once added to the truck of how often we meandered, and it helped to improve our fuel mileage.

Another feature we have is the adaptive cruise and collision mitigation.  Often, I have heard the collision mitigation called collision avoidance and that could not be further from the truth.  The truck has collision mitigation and I, the driver am the collision avoidance.  As with any partner the Cascadia does not have control.  If the Assurance system senses a collision is about to happen there is an audible warning, and then the foundation brakes as well as engine compression brake starts to slow the truck. It boils down to me as the senior partner to decide how to handle the situation. 

As with any good partnership we each have our strengths and as time goes on we know when to let the other shine.  When going through a city my abilities as a driver over rides what the Cascadia sees as a dangerous situation.  I work with the LDWS to stay between the lines and to override the LDWS warnings by using my turn signals when changing lanes.  The adaptive cruise is constantly monitored to not stay behind a slower moving vehicle that is erratic. Our truck will be as erratic as them, hurt our fuel mileage, and our sleeping partner will not get good rest.

When going down a mountain the engine brake of the DD13 is far superior at handling steep grades.  As we crest the hill the cruise is set at five under the posted speed limit.  The engine compression brake automatically adjusts the pressure to maintain the cruise speed.  Depending on the steepness of the hill the compression brake will use three stages from minimum to maximum to keep us at our current speed. As the hill flattens the compression brake shuts off and we continue on at our set cruise speed.   Depending on how we, as the driver, set the controls is how the truck will react. 

Nearly all of the newer trucks come with electronic stability control (ESC) and while this was once an option it now comes standard.  The ESC uses a combination of the trucks safety devices, ABS, and brakes to control a roll over situation or skid.  This is all following what we have done with the steering wheel if we are turning, or if one side of the truck is on wet pavement and the other side is on dry pavement, each wheel end works independently to maintain control of the vehicle.  This all happens seamlessly following the drivers lead to stay in control. The real trick is to drive as if we do not have electronic stability control and only use as a backup. To see a video of how ESC works, watch this video and be glad you are not the driver!  Electronic Stability Control Video

Each of the safety devices we have on our truck is used to assist us as the driver who is the senior partner in this relationship.  The longer I drive our Cascadia the stronger our partnership becomes, the more I quickly realize how much these systems assist me in my day to day driving.  At the end of my driving shift I am much more relaxed thanks to my Freightliner Cascadia partner. 

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About Linda Caffee

Bob and Linda have been team drivers since 2005 as expediters. They are leased to Landstar Express America. Bob was a diesel mechanic for twenty years before doing over the road and Linda worked in the courthouse.

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