I’ve heard a lot of people complain about self-checkout lines at grocery stores, and while hesitant at first, I really kind of like them now. I know all the arguments against them. “I’m not paid to work here” and “it puts people out of work” are the two that are most readily at top of mind.

I understand that sentiment, and I get it, but what about other advancements that have become part of our everyday life, like ATMs? That stands for Automated Teller Machine, and even though ATMs are getting used less and less, a bank teller somewhere has been automated. Would we rather go into a bank every time we need to withdraw cash? My paycheck is automatically deposited into my bank account for me. Does that not take work away from a bank teller? Of course it does, but it saves me time and allows me to get cash at my convenience instead of having to rush to make it to the bank before it closes. Would you give up that convenience now? I wouldn’t.

Internet searches have become a primary way to find information, including phone numbers. Every time you use Google to look up a phone number, a former operator cries. OK, maybe not, but gone are the days of dialing “information” to get a phone number for the nearest auto parts store. 30 seconds on our smartphones and they are already looking up the part number for a fuel pump for the broken-down Dodge Grand Caravan in the garage. Oddly specific? Yes, but I am speaking from experience here. Would I give up that convenience now? Nope!

People worried when cars were beginning to come to the forefront about furriers being put out of work. People worried about lamplighters being put out of work when electric street lamps were first being installed on main streets across the country. See a trend?

Progress Sometimes Hurts

Some of the technologies in our trucks are obviously leading up to the autonomous Class 8 truck. I believe fully autonomous Class 8 vehicles are a ways off, but those technologies are here to stay. The Side Guard Assist, and the Active Braking Systems to name just a few. Those are here to stay. Instead of fighting them though, what if we learned to manage them, to make them a useful tool?

While the Side Guard Assist may be annoying at times, it’s nice to know that I have an extra pair of eyes watching my blind side. It should never be relied on completely, but having an extra layer of protection is helpful. 

The same can be said for the Active Braking System. Again, it should never replace keeping a good following distance and being attentive. But again, that extra layer of protection is nice to have. Do I ever want it to go off? No. Will I be happy if it helps mitigate an accident? Uhhhh, Yeah!

Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Departure Warning Systems are additional layers of protection, even though they will be used for Class 8 autonomous trucks. I manage them to the best of my ability and use them to make me a more aware driver.

Will these technologies lead to the demise of the truck driver as we know them? Maybe, but it may also leave more opportunities for generations after us to use different talents to support their families. 

Someone has to maintain the software. Someone has to keep the infrastructure maintained. Someone has to do some jobs we haven’t even considered or thought of yet. 

So I will cautiously embrace new technology and be thankful that back in the day, I wasn’t the guy picking up horse crap off the roads, dodging the new-fangled Horseless Carriages.

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Clark W Reed

Clark Reed of Roscoe, Illinois is an OTR company driver and trainer for Nussbaum Transportation based out of Hudson, Illinois. He has been driving since 2005 and has driven van, reefer, and tanker. He currently hauls dry van to all lower 48 states. Clark is passionate about MPGs and how driver habits influence them. The lifetime average of his 2018 Cascadia is 9.75 mpg, with eyes on 10. Clark, along with Henry Albert, was one of the seven drivers in 2017's "Run on Less" by NACFE, a road show, demonstrating what fuel efficiency can be obtained with existing technologies.

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