Three Cubs' fans were sitting at the bar. One was an old dog trucker who was proud of his 1993 Freightliner that has “none of that modern junk". One was a farm equipment design engineer. The other was me. We commiserated over the demise of the Cubs. It was agreed that  the National League Championship Series was a bad ending to a promising season.

The engineer asked about the truck driver shortage. I went on to explain why I believe that the driver shortage is the biggest lie in the industry. The old dog trucker agreed and I got a Harumph out of that guy. We went on to discuss this, and I went on my usual numbers tirade proving my point. We all agreed.

Then the engineer asked me what was the biggest change in trucking. I said satellite technology. I told him how technology had changed trucking. We talked about how GPS is used in farm tractors. The farmer can map the field and the tractor follows the map. The plow lines are perfect. The farmer actually pilots the tractor more than he drives it.

The discussion turned to modern technology in trucks. As a believer in safety technology, I began speaking of the virtues of the modern collision mitigation systems and adaptive cruise. The old dog trucker said that he would never have any of that junk in his truck. “I ain't never letting some computer take over my truck. I hear they will slam on the brakes for no reason”. I took that as a challenge. I said “You're right – kind of – Sometimes the system will engage for when you wouldn't, but it never engages for no reason. An attentive professional can recognize those situations and easily over ride the system That is why drivers should be trained on how new technology works before they are sent away with it.”

At this point my new pals were staring at me and looking for clarification. When you are looking out of your windshield in traffic, there are about a million things happening all at once. You prioritize them. We have always done this. The professional driver might be looking 30 seconds or more ahead. The professional driver anticipates based on experience. The system is reacting to things within 3.5 seconds ahead of the truck. As long as the driver can communicate with the system 4 seconds ahead, the system does not do anything. My belief is that the system uses negative reinforcement (braking) to get the driver to anticipate and act. Once the driver and the CMS work together, the CMS rarely does anything.

Then the engineer piped up that he loves his CMS and adaptive cruise control in his car. It lets him attend to other things while he is driving. He trusts it to slow down or brake if the traffic ahead of him does. That is the danger of modern safety technology.

Comments (3)

Jeff Clark

Jeff Clark of Kewaunee, WI has been driving a truck for 24 years. He has been an owner operator for 11 years.

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Exactly, the system is a safety net. It is not for every day use. The idea is to avoid it engaging.

October 27, 2015 15:13:39 PM

I agree and wish everyone would get trained so they too can get the full benefit of modern safety technology .

October 27, 2015 14:44:27 PM

Good article Jeff. Wow, I'm saddened to hear how the engineer uses his CMS and adaptive cruise control. Never should we take our attention from the road because there is technology in the vehicle. He is an accident waiting to happen and hopefully it won't be fatal. The other things need to be attended to after the driving is completed and the vehicle is stopped. Just put everything away and drive the dang vehicle!

October 27, 2015 13:42:14 PM