Today’s Trucking: Strength of Tonnage Good Sign For Economy

Truckers, do you feel the weight of the load you’re hauling? It’s getting heavier, the American Trucking Associations’ (ATA) reports, and that’s a sign that the U.S. economy is doing better than some might believe.

The ATA has been calculating tonnage index based on surveys from its membership since the 1970s.

“The final quarter [of 2013] was the strongest we’ve seen in a couple of years, rising 2.2 percent from the third quarter and 9.1 percent from a year earlier,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “Tonnage ended 2013 on a high note, which fits with many economic indicators as trucking is an excellent reflection of the tangible goods economy.”

December tonnage was up 0.6 percent and that’s after November’s tonnage surged by 4.7 percent, growth that pushed the index 6.2 percent higher for the full year, making it the best year since 1998.

Costello said that the growth in tonnage in the second half of 2013 points to an economy that’s likely stronger than some believe.

“I’m seeing more broad-based gains now. The improvement is not limited to the tank truck and flatbed sectors like earlier in the year,” he said. “With manufacturing and consumer spending picking up, coupled with solid volumes from hydraulic fracturing, I look for tonnage to be good in 2014 as well.”

The Clarion-Ledger: It’s my job: Trucking

I didn’t start driving trucks until I was about 47. I was a salesperson stuck in an office. I had gone through a divorce and decided I wanted to see more than the three states I had been in in my life.

I had to pay $3,500 for a commercial driving license, and I only had about $4,000 at the time, but I did it. And CDLs are tough to get — real tough. I think I was one of only two out of a class of 20 that got one. I went to work in Chattanooga, Tenn., and I drove all 48 states. I did that for two years. It’s tough work. You’re often gone for three or four weeks at a time and then you get two days at home before you’re on the road again. It’s better if you’re an owner-operator; then you have more freedom to set your own schedule.

Seeing Mount Rushmore and buffaloes in the Dakotas was a highlight. That, and just being in the fresh air and seeing the natural rivers and stuff. Seeing the coast of California was an eye-opening experience, too. What most people don’t understand is that we can’t really stop and get out though because of regulations. Our sight-seeing is done from the road. Still, in the warm months it’s gorgeous. The winter can be treacherous though.

I remember driving in West Virginia when I had first started out. They were closing the roads because of the snow and I had planned to stop at the top of this mountain. The veteran drivers kept on going and one of them told me I didn’t want to get stuck there, so I followed him down the mountain. I tell you this — driving on black ice makes you take your time and it makes you thank the Lord when you make it through.

But then I got to where I had seen all I wanted to see and wanted to find something more local. I met my current wife, Joan, online, and she’s the reason I came to Jackson. I got a job hauling scrap iron before I met the man I work for today, Mr. Leon Getty. He’s a great boss, and I get a lot of leeway with my schedule and have quality family time.

Now I don’t travel more than a 100-mile radius of Jackson. Where I used to have to sleep in the cab, now I get to come home every night and sleep in my own bed. You don’t make the money you do when you’re driving the country. I make about $20,000 less than I did then, but that’s the sacrifice you have to make to get the family time. I don’t have to work weekends anymore, either.

I do wish other people better understood how difficult it is to stop an 18-wheeler. People make it dangerous on the roads; we just don’t have the capability to stop like they do. The other difficult part of the job is trying to eat right. That’s why you see so many obese truck drivers. You can’t just drive an 18-wheeler into Subway, ya know? The places you can drive a rig into and park isn’t really conducive to a healthy diet.

I love my job though. My boss is very generous. And driving gives me time to listen to music and talk radio, or just to think. I’m very happy doing what I’m doing, and I’ve found what I want to do with my life.

— As told to The Clarion-Ledger

Washington Post: Do ‘traffic angels’ drive semi-trucks?

By Lori Aratani

Ever wish that divine intervention might help you cut through traffic congestion? Well, this wasn’t exactly divine intervention, but someone we’ll call a “traffic angel” helped steer a Leesburg family through some pretty nasty holiday traffic.

In a letter to The Washington Post’s Editorial Page published Monday, Christine Hart described a holiday driving experience that proves you can find humanity and kindness even when you see nothing by tail lights in front of you. Hart wrote:

“On Dec. 27, my family and I were returning to our Virginia home after spending a wonderful Christmas with my daughter, son-in-law and granddaughters on Nantucket Island. The journey, albeit long, was going well until traffic came to a dead stop east of Harrisburg on Interstate 81. There were brake lights glowing as far as we could see.” 

She continued:

“After about 20 minutes of stop, drive five feet, stop, repeat, we were resigned to many more hours in the car. Suddenly in the adjacent lane a trucker lowered his window and motioned for me to do the same. When I did, he asked us where we were headed and we told him Northern Virginia. He smiled and said, “I’m on my way home to Emmitsburg. The traffic is backed up for 15 miles on this highway. Follow me.”

 With a little trepidation (perhaps we’ve watched too many episodes of “Criminal Minds”) we did just that, following him through Harrisburg on highways and byways that we had no idea existed. About 30 minutes later we found ourselves heading south on Route 15 — just where we wanted to be.

I am writing in the hope that this man will read my letter and know how much we appreciated his random act of kindness.”


Marshall Independent: From Truckers, To Toys

By Deb Gau

MARSHALL – “The looks I get are the most fun,” Charisse Meyer said. Of course, when you come to the store checkout with a huge load of toys and winter clothes, you’re bound to turn heads. By Monday afternoon, Meyer said she had made three shopping trips to local businesses, and she wasn’t finished yet.

“I’m going to go back out tonight and get snow boots,” she said.

The piles of gifts Meyer brought back to the offices of Western Community Action in Marshall will be given to more than 100 area families in need this Christmas. And while the shopping spree to buy them has become something of a holiday tradition for Meyer, she was quick to point out that she’s not acting alone. Donations from area truck drivers and trucking companies, as well as many other area businesses, make the giving possible.

“We have a great time, and it’s such a great cause,” Meyer said.

Meyer, safety director at Eickhoff Enterprises, serves as an area captain for Trucks and Toys, a holiday charity program sponsored by the Minnesota Trucking Association. Since 2006, the Marshall area Trucks and Toys program has partnered with WCA to help families in its service area.

Trucks and Toys is a statewide program. But Meyer said when she was asked to be area captain seven years ago, she wanted to make sure that gifts were distributed locally. WCA seemed like a good choice for a partner organization, she said, because the Head Start preschool program there works with families across a five-county area.

Often, the families who are helped by Trucks and Toys wouldn’t be able to have Christmas presents otherwise, Head Start staff said.

“Our families are really grateful,” said Kim Steinbronn, family support coordinator for Head Start.

Meyer said the area Trucks and Toys program starts out each year with a list of children in need, along with their ages and genders. Head Start teachers help to identify families for the program, as well as each family’s needs, said Head Start Director Gail Goltz. Then Meyer collects donations. Many come from individual truck drivers, as well as area trucking companies.

“Truckers are really giving people,” Meyer said. “My guys love doing (Trucks and Toys).” Sometimes, the drivers are the ones asking her when the collection will start.

Meyer said this year, Eickhoff Enterprises worked together with Bradley Trucking, Viessman Trucking, Schak Trucking in Tyler, BlackJack Express in Wood Lake, and SPEI, a company that hauls for Turkey Valley Farms, to raise money and donate gifts. Marshall businesses also play a big part in the Trucks and Toys drive. In the past couple of years, she said, a long list of local businesses have helped by donating supplies, money and even gifts, as well as offering discounts for toys and winter clothes.

One of the good things about the program, Meyer said, is the low overhead cost. “Everything is spent on the kids,” she said.

Once all the gifts are waiting at the WCA office, Head Start teachers pick out age-appropriate presents for both Head Start kids and their siblings, and bring them to parents to wrap. It’s a fun experience for everyone involved, Goltz said.

When teachers are selecting gifts for the kids, she said, “They’re kind of like Santa.”

“I’m not normally a shopper,” Meyer said, but it’s always fun to go pick out Trucks and Toys gifts. “It’s not for me, it’s for the kids.”

That’s what makes it all worthwhile, she said.


Transport Topics: It Was a Truck


If you got it, most likely a truck brought it. Again. The latest Commodity Flow Survey from the federal government — a twice-a-decade undertaking — reiterates what most of us already know: that trucking moves America.

According to the new study, the U.S. economy generated $13.6 trillion worth of goods shipments during 2012, weighing a total of 11.7 billion tons.

And truckers moved more than 73.7% of those goods, as measured by dollar value, and more than 70% as measured by weight. That translates into 8.19 billion tons of freight moving in trucks over 2012, with a total value of $10.04 trillion.

Since the last study in 2007, the report shows, the value of freight shipments moved by truck has grown, while the total weight of those shipments has declined. The weight shrinkage is further evidence that technology generally leads to smaller, lighter products.

An interesting sidelight of the new study is the continual shrinking of distances that most truckloads are traveling, meaning trucking is increasingly becoming a regional business.

According to the Commodity Flow Survey, during 2012, 84.9% of all truck shipments were less than 500 miles and the average distance for-hire carriers moved loads was 489 miles.

On the other hand, the survey shows that the average truck-rail intermodal shipment during 2012 traveled 1,004 miles, a significant decline from the 1,413 miles in the 2002 survey. This indicates that intermodal is being used in shorter hauls than in the past, which in turn is helping reduce the average truck haul.

But truck-rail intermodal still is attracting only a fraction of freight. According to the survey, all of the intermodal freight shipped in 2012 weighed 224.3 million tons and was worth $230.5 million.

Meanwhile, a new survey from American Trucking Associations shows that driver turnover at for-hire truckload fleets dipped in the third quarter of the year, and it rose at less-than-truckload carriers.

While churn declined 2 percentage points at large TL fleets and 8 points at small ones, the quarter was the seventh consecutive in which turnover exceeded 90% at large carriers.

But there are indications that turnover rates are likely to remain high, and could well rise, as the economy strengthens during 2014.

Clearly, the industry must continue to strengthen its programs to attract new drivers and to make the profession attractive enough to retain more of our current workers.

Asheville Citizen-Times: How trucking helped land high tech jet engine parts

By Dan Neal

Old Dominion has been trucking freight across the Southeast for more than 75 years, but this spring the company played a role in driving a new deal to bring more jobs and space-age technology to Asheville.

County manager Wanda Greene and assistant county manager Jon Creighton came calling on Old Dominion with an interesting proposition — How would you like to move?

The county offered a nice little property owned by the city of Asheville, and by the way, Buncombe could build Old Dominion a brand new facility.

The pitch was part of a complex deal Buncombe County officials were trying to broker in order to win a new factory that at least 12 different states were competing to land. Throughout the spring, elected officials had to keep mum about what was only called Project X. Buncombe County commissioners approved a $15 million land swap.

The mystery was finally solved last June when GE Aviation announced that Asheville would be the first place in the world to manufacture jet engine shrouds made from ceramic matrix composites.

This is a material developed by GE engineers that’s light but strong and heat-resistant, requiring special tools to even cut it. Think of the possibility of building a jet engine from a space-age plastic.

Old Dominion’s old freight terminal off Sweeten Creek Road came crashing down, or at least a symbolic corner of the building, during the official groundbreaking in November for the new GE Aviation plant, which will be built on the trucking company’s old property.

David Gantt, chairman of the county commissioners, was finally able to tell the public what officials couldn’t at first reveal, having been sworn to secrecy during the negotiations with GE Aviation.

Gantt congratulated Old Dominion as a good corporate citizen, agreeing to the move and helping another company expand in Western North Carolina.

In hindsight, everyone calls the deal a triple-win. Taxpayers would likely see a return on the real estate and construction deal with both Old Dominion and GE Aviation paying annual leases as well as property taxes that will boost the tax base.

But all this space-age technology probably wouldn’t be coming to Asheville without the participation of an old-fashioned industry like trucking, which remains big business in the 21st century.

About Old Dominion

A Tar Heel company, Old Dominion is headquartered in Thomasville, employing some 14,500 workers. The Asheville terminal with its 33 workers is one of eight within the state, and among 225 service centers nationwide.

In October, the company quietly moved into a new Asheville service center with 43 doors on Hendersonville Road, situated closer to the crucial crossroads of both Interstate 40 and Interstate 26.

Charles Price for one was glad to see his company could help out. The manager of the Asheville center, Price thought a move closer to the interstate would be good for their business. And he’s glad to see GE Aviation bringing more manufacturing to the area.

“Old Dominion has witnessed considerable growth during its 16 years in Asheville, and this larger, modern facility will allow us to better accommodate customers new and old alike,” Price said. “The extra space will also allow for future growth in the region.”

Old Dominion rigs haul just about anything and everything you can think of into and out of that Asheville terminal, Price explained — from manufactured parts to food to clothing to whatever. About 50 trucks file in and out of the terminal each day, and locally-based drivers haul loads 200 and 300 miles in a single day south to Atlanta or east to Greensboro.

He expects even more hauling business for the trucking company as the new inland port opens up in Greer, S.C. Containers shipped by rail from the Port of Charleston will be relayed onto tractor-trailers in Greer and sent around the Southeast.

Those long lines of trucks lumbering up the slow lanes from Old Fort, or flying down the Saluda grade, aren’t just trying to tie up tourist traffic. They’re bringing home what stocks our stores or shipping out what our factories have made.

Making jet engine parts in Asheville is a definite plus, but a more mundane transportation with big trucks like Old Dominion remains an important mainstay of our economy.

CCJ: Trucks Moved a Whopping 70 percent — $10 trillion — of Nation’s Goods in 2012

By Commercial Carrier Journal Staff

More than 70 percent of both the value and the weight of the freight moved in the 2012 calendar year trekked via truck, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, who released its annual Commodity Flow Survey results this week.

Of the $13.6 trillion worth of goods moved last year, trucks carried $10 trillion of it (73.7 percent), according to the CFS. Tonnage wise, 11.7 billion tons of goods were shipped in 2012, with trucks carrying 8 billion of them.

The for-hire trucking industry carried 48.5 percent, $6.6 trillion, according to the CFS, while private trucks moved 25.2 percent of the total ($3.4 trillion).

However, when looking at ton-miles, rail accounted for 44.5 percent of freight movement and trucking accounted for 38.1 percent, according to the CFS. Ton-miles is a measurement of weight multiplied by distance shipped.

More than half of the total tonnage moved in 2012 went less than 50 miles, CFS says, and shipments traveling fewer than 250 miles accounted for more than 60 percent.

The CFS is only conducted every five years, with the first coming in 1993, and the subsequent ones coming in 1997, 2002, 2007 and last year. Final data from the survey will be released in December 2014, the DOT says.

Click here to see data tables from the preliminary report.

HEAVY DUTY TRUCKING: 8 Things to Expect on Tomorrow’s Trucks

By Deborah Lockridge

In some ways, the truck of the future is here today. What would a truck driver from decades ago think if he were suddenly transported from his own time into one of today’s state-of-the-art rigs?

Smooth, quiet rides. Automated transmissions. A voice giving turn-by-turn directions through in-cab speakers. Systems that warn if he’s wandered out of his lane or to slow down if he’s in danger of hitting the vehicle ahead. Tires that inflate themselves up automatically. The list goes on and on.

The Technology and Maintenance Council of the American Trucking Associations has been looking at the future since 1984. That’s when it founded its Future Truck program, which looks at what members want and expect in the trucks of tomorrow.

TMC is midway through the multi-year process of developing a new Future Truck position paper. We started with those results, then spoke with truck makers and others in the industry to bring you this list of things you can reasonably expect to see on trucks in the next five to 10 years or beyond.

1. Better fuel economy

More than half the fleets in TMC’s survey think we’ll see trucks achieving better than 9 mpg – a feat already being achieved by some fleets. Mike Jeffress, vice president of maintenance at Maverick Transportation, would like to see 10- to 15-mpg tractors. That’s not out of the realm of possibility.

Peterbilt is a partner in the Department of Energy’s SuperTruck project, which focuses on doubling the freight efficiency of tractor-trailer technology.

Peterbilt Chief Engineer Landon Sproull says its first-generation SuperTruck concept tractor-trailer achieved nearly 10 mpg. He expects even better performance out of the second-generation truck, which should be ready in the first quarter of 2014.

Fuel economy is being driven both by fleet demand and by federal regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The first tier of those GHG regs already is in effect for 2014 model year trucks. The next round of regulations, which are still being written, are expected to kick in starting in 2019, says Wade Long, Volvo Trucks director of product marketing.

As equipment makers move forward, Long says cruise power demand will decrease by at least 20% on average, pushing down optimum engine size and/or allowing for downspeeding.

“Decreased cruise power demand and potential for smaller engines could allow for optimizing cab aerodynamics,” he says, “either for a small engine with waste heat recovery or a larger engine without waste heat recovery.”
Expect more trucks to have a 6×2 axle configuration where the second axle in the drive tandem is a “dead” axle, and more direct drive instead of overdrive transmissions.

Expect more automated transmissions, both for fuel economy and widening the driver pool. TMC’s survey predicted above 60% usage of AMTs in Class 8 trucks as well as increasing use of hydraulic automatics – above 15% market share in Class 8 and above 70% in Class 6 and Class 7.

There already is, and will continue to be, an increasing focus on the powertrain as a whole, with the transmission, engine and axles all working together for the optimal fuel economy.

The next step will use data from outside and inside the truck to make drivetrains even more efficient.

Sproull believes that in three to five years, using technologies such as predictive cruise control, GPS and 3D mapping, “we’ll see improved predictability of the terrain to manage the vehicle for fuel economy.” In fact, he said, it’s already been demonstrated on the SuperTruck project.

Navistar is also heading in that direction, says spokesman Steve Schrier. “One unique technology that’s a couple years away is what I would refer to as a ‘smart cruise control system’ that takes into consideration a number of various factors like GPS data, topography, road data, etc. The system takes these variables and transforms them into formulas and algorithms and communicates with the truck’s ECM to apply (or not) the throttle based on approaching inclines and declines on the road.”

Peterbilt’s Sproull predicts the next set of regs will bring “a step change in terms of aerodynamics.” Efforts will focus more on the tractor-trailer as a whole, he says. Strategies will include managing the air flow between the tractor and the trailer, under the trailer and coming off the rear of the trailer.

Volvo’s Long agrees, and says if the EPA doesn’t bring trailers into the picture, California could mandate advanced trailer designs.

Brian Tabel, spokesman for Isuzu, believes we also will see medium-duty vehicles become more streamlined. Isuzu partnered with Supreme a few years ago to build a lightweight, composite and aerodynamic Aero Body. The Great Recession led to its discontinuation, but Tabel believes the idea will gain traction in the future.

There are many more ideas truck makers are working on to squeeze every last bit of fuel economy they can.

“We’re going to be trying to capture those bits and pieces of fuel economy improvement, because a lot of the low-hanging fruit has been captured,” says Scott Perry, Ryder’s VP of purchasing.

Long believes the next step of federal GHG regs will lead to the proliferation of low-rolling-resistance tires. You may even see such tires mandated for on-highway use, he says. And we’ll likely see continuing adoption of wide-based single tires for operations where it makes sense.

Lighter weight materials will save fuel and/or increase payload. The TMC survey suggested dynamic control of the trailer gap and fifth wheel height. We’ll likely see the demise of external antennas, as we already have on the Freightliner Cascadia Evolution. And cameras could replace rear-view mirrors, as they did on Freightliner’s Revolution concept truck.

Navistar’s Project Horizon concept vehicle at the 2013 Mid-America Trucking Show featured grille bars that open and close based on cooling demands. “The dynamic grille bars reduce aerodynamic drag by creating the right balance between the air entering the cooling module and traveling around the vehicle,” Schrier explains.

Idle reduction will continue to gain adoption as systems continue to improve.
Auxiliary power units, auxiliary heater units, battery-powered HVAC systems, auto start/stop battery management systems are all available right now, says Schrier, and will continue to gain traction in future trucks.

Battery-powered, diesel-powered, even fuel-cell-powered systems were seen as likely players by TMC survey respondents.

We could even see widespread use of solar power idle reduction, as eNow has already introduced.

2.‘Right-sized’ vehicles and engines

Fleets are realizing that they may be able to save fuel and upfront purchase costs by spec’ing a smaller or less powerful vehicle that more closely fits their needs, and that trend is likely to continue.

For instance, right now we’re seeing a move from 15 liters to 13 liters for Class 8 on-highway trucks. Jeffress wonders if engine designers eventually may work the same magic with 11-liter engines.

The same is true for the lower classes of trucks.

“Look at the horsepower and torque we’re getting out of a four-cylinder engine that’s delivering 200 horsepower and 285 or 300 pounds-feet of torque to do a job in a Class 5 vehicle,” says Todd Bloom, president and CEO of Mitsubishi Fuso Truck of America.

In medium-duty, many fleets are moving to smaller-class vehicles. Isuzu’s Tabel says people “are reevaluating how their trucks are driven. Something they would always use a Class 6 or 7 for, now they’re coming down to a Class 5. They’ve always bought big, heavy-duty trucks so they ensure they’ve got everything covered. Now they’re looking at how they can put more fuel-efficient trucks on different routes.”

Bloom describes this as a “trend to use the right vehicle for the right job.”
“Instead of getting more truck than you need so you’ll never be overloaded, it makes more sense to get that loaded 90% every day,” he says. “If you need more for the busy season, you can go out and rent what you need.”

3. Better durability and maintenance

By 2025, TMC fleet members say, we’ll see trucks that are more reliable.

• Oil change intervals may continue to increase, with TMC’s survey predicting oil change intervals of more than 60,000 miles.
• More fleets will go to air disc brakes, which take less maintenance than traditional drum brakes, with half saying it would be over 75%.
• TMC members predict 80% or greater usage of tire pressure monitoring and inflation systems, and a likely addition of tread depth sensors, to help tires last longer and save fuel.
• We will continue to see improvements in the electrical and battery area. Ultracapacitors are on the horizon, says TMC, and a switch to 24 volts is probable. We’re already on the way to all-LED lighting.

Computer technology, from electronic driver vehicle inspections to telematics, may play the largest role in improved vehicle uptime. Truck makers are now offering telematics systems that communicate between the truck, the dealer/OE and the back office about any problems happening on the vehicle.

“I think in the future, the truck will be able to understand, based on its duty cycle, when the usable life of the components on board is and when they need to be serviced,” predicts T.J. Reed, director of product strategy for Freightliner Trucks, and will communicate that to the maintenance manager.

Mike McQuade, chief technology officer for Zonar, predicts more telematics built into the truck. He foresees a day when the OE can analyze the data from each truck and tweak the programming over the air to make it operate more efficiently.

“We’re going to see aftermarket telematics be one thing, and factory-installed telematics be some level above that,” McQuade says. “Like supersizing your order or buying a loaded car, you’re going to get another level of connectivity, knowledge and value.”

4. Alternative fuels

“Beyond the next couple of years, we’re seeing a groundswell for alternative fuels, especially natural gas,” says Ryder’s Perry. “More investment is being made in engine platforms to expand that portfolio, and that competition drives further advancements on the technology standpoint and also drives cost out of the offering.”

Don’t count out other alternative fuels, such as advanced biofuels made from algae and other non-food stocks. Volvo and Mack believe DME, or dimethyl ether, is the fuel of the future. Hybrid, electric, propane, natural-gas-to-liquid, all will likely play a role in powering future trucks.

For medium-duty, TMC’s survey respondents felt it was likely that we would see gasoline-powered Class 6-7 trucks. Truck makers backed this up.

Isuzu’s Tabel says the traditional rule of thumb was that only trucks with 25,000 miles annually or less were a good candidate for gasoline. “Today we’re seeing customers that have 25,000, 30,000, even 35,000 miles a year and they can still make sense of gas, because they don’t have the added costs of diesel emissions requirements, DPF filter cleanings or DEF fluid,” he says.

5. Changes in the cab

Expect more integration of in-cab technology into the OE dashboard. Both Freightliner and Peterbilt have showed concept trucks featuring a removable tablet in the dash that can display virtual gauges, navigation and instantaneous feedback on fuel economy and unsafe driving. The tablet can be removed when the truck is not in motion to perform electronic vehicle inspections or for the driver to use to connect with family members or other personal use.

Daimler recently took a step in that direction with its Detroit Connect tablet. It pops into a cradle rather than being built into the dash as those concept trucks, but it performs many of the same functions, offering telematics, diagnostics, navigation, hours of service and more.

Sleepers may get smaller as more fleets move to regional haul or hub and spoke type operations.

Freightliner’s Revolution concept truck totally re-envisioned the cab interior for these types of operations. It’s somewhat like an extended cab, with a sleeper berth that folds up. The passenger door or passenger seat have been left out in order to create a driver work area.

Driver productivity and satisfaction drove many of the interior features of the Revolution, including small things like mood lighting and an integrated coffeemaker.

OEs have been paying a lot of attention to driver comfort and convenience in their latest trucks. The focus on ergonomics may continue as fleets face a worsening driver shortage. We could see more adoption of driver comfort options such as the Bose Ride system, a seat that uses “intelligent motion” technology to improve driver comfort and reduce fatigue.

6. More safety features

We’ll almost certainly see more penetration of high-tech safety systems such as collision avoidance, lane departure warning, rollover prevention and stability control, says Ryder’s Perry. “CSA has definitely driven that from the accountability standpoint.” They may well be mandated by the federal government some day.

TMC’s survey predicts greater than 80% usage of lane departure warning systems and collision warning/mitigation systems. They believe we’ll see over 60% usage of blind spot monitors, and more than 40% usage of cameras monitoring the driver.

These features will continue to improve and add more capabilities and integration with other systems in the coming years. SmartDrive, for instance, recently announced integration of its camera-based system with collision mitigation systems from third-party suppliers.

Maverick’s Jeffress speculates that the advanced systems we see today could perhaps be paired with even more advanced computer algorithms that operate intelligently based on the individual driver.

“If a system can prevent you from following closer than, say, 3 seconds, then it should be able to learn an operator’s habits and adjust accordingly,” he says.

Safety innovations aren’t always about computers. Navistar, for instance, showcased a corner illumination lamp on its Project Horizon truck, which is automatically activated with the turn signal. As the driver signals to turn, four corner LED lights are activated, illuminating the corner to provide the driver increased visibility before the turn.

7. More medium-duty cabovers

Fuso’s Bloom predicts we’ll see an increase in medium-duty cabovers for urban applications, while vocational trucks will largely still be conventionals. In fact, he sees the re-entry of more low cabovers in the Class 6 and 7 market, thanks to their maneuverability, sightlines and overall efficiencies in an urban environment.

Kenworth’s Class 6 K270 and Class 7 K370 cabover medium-duty trucks, introduced about 18 months ago, are making far more inroads into the market than the company’s previous forays into this segment, say company officials.

Doug Powell, medium-duty marketing manager, says these trucks are better suited to the North American market than the company’s previous attempts.
“We’re really pushing our dealers to interview the customer to really see what’s best for their application,” he says. “In a lot of cases the K370 will work better than the [conventional] T370.”

8. Connected vehicles and highways

We delve into this topic more in this article by HDT’s Jim Beach – the idea of vehicles communicating with each other and with the infrastructure. TMC members believe vehicle-to-infrastructure communications are likely. (We already see a version of this with automated tolling and weigh station bypass systems.) Wireless communications between the tractor and trailer are seen as likely in the survey, and vehicle-to-vehicle communications are seen as probable.

Brian Heath at Drivewyze, which offers a smartphone-based weigh station bypass system, says weigh-in-motion and hours-of-service information could be exchanged wirelessly as the truck travels down the highway.

Looking further out, we could even see driverless vehicle platooning, the TMC survey says.

“The concept of driverless vehicles has intrigued me for many years,” says Maverick’s Jeffress. “What would a driverless tractor look like? Think of all the parasitic loads that could be removed – no need for HVAC, for instance. What would the efficiency of that second or third vehicle [in a platoon configuration] actually be? How does this thought process tie back to the safety technology advancements as well as CSA?”

Peterbilt’s Sproull says while autonomous vehicles are “a long way out, the technology is there. Demonstration vehicles today are showing that’s very feasible.” In fact, Peterbilt is involved in a platooning test project.

Freightliner’s Reed predicts that while we will continue to see active safety systems improve, trucks still need drivers for the foreseeable future. In the meantime, he says, “How can we help the folks behind the wheel be more effective – to be the safest, most fuel-efficient they can be?”

For some really far-out concept trucks, check out this photo gallery at:

MULTIBRIEFS: Truckers: Let’s send a positive image

By Tom Kretsinger, Jr.

For as long as I have been involved in industry associations — whether on a state or federal level — folks in the industry talk about improving our image. Mostly we talk to each other, an audience already holding a positive image of ourselves. That takes little convincing.

Yet what do most people outside of the industry think of when they think of truckers? The lyrics to “Eastbound and Down” by Jerry Reed from the movie “Smokey and the Bandit”? Or maybe the song by C.W. McCall named, “ Convoy” which glorifies breaking the law? How about the song “Six Days on the Road” by David Dudley?

While many know these lyrics by heart, do they really know the lengths we go to be safe, legal and professional?

What are people’s personal experiences around big trucks? The wind and shake when passed by a big rig? The blinding splash of water when passing or following an 18-wheeler in the rain? Or the large grill with teeth on it tailgating them down the road when they have kids strapped in the back of the car? It takes so much to improve our image and so little to tear it down.

Why does our image matter? Because “perception is reality,” as the famous quote by Lee Atwater states. A bad perception is a costly reality.

The preconceived ideas that jurors have affect the number and size of verdicts. Plaintiffs’ lawyers know that they can grab the brass ring if they can get a jury to personalize a case and feel a need to “send a message” to the industry. I just read about one such case that resulted in a $150 million verdict. It is impossible that the plaintiff’s damages — sad as they were — could even vaguely approach this figure, but the jury was sending a message … to us.

Perception shapes public policy. Have you noticed the increasing tendency of state, local and federal legislators and regulators to micromanage without any reasonable cost/benefit analysis the smallest details of our work? Though they know little of the industry, they feel a need to do something. Why? Because they perceive that we are unsafe, despite strong evidence to the contrary.

Perception is trumping reality. Automobiles are far less safe, but do we see the same efforts to regulate and legislate cars? No. Do we see the same verdicts on car crashes? No. Do we see as many attorney advertisements for car wrecks as truck wrecks? No. Image matters — it matters greatly.

What can we do about it? We not only have a big job to do, but an important one and a necessary one. We need to communicate a positive image to those outside of our industry. This can be accomplished only if everyone gets involved. There is strength in numbers. It is time we tapped into our strength.

The Truckload Carriers Association has a fantastic image program known as Wreathes Across America. Whether or not you are a member of TCA, you can do your part to help. Learn more about the program and the many different ways you can participate by going to

Wreaths Across America Day — Dec. 14 — is rapidly approaching. Will you help us raise funds to place fresh wreaths on veterans’ graves? Will you provide a truck or a dispatcher?

In an effort to educate the public, media and government about the trucking industry, TCA produced the above video that showcases the compassion and patriotism of our industry. I urge you to watch this powerful message.

The video focuses on the role that many of TCA’s members play in Wreaths Across America, a nonprofit organization that oversees an annual weeklong campaign to honor fallen veterans. Each of them volunteers to escort wreaths from Maine to more than 800 veterans’ cemeteries, including Arlington National Cemetery, every year.

The commercial contains a strong, powerful and positive message about trucking. Along the way, their convoys stop at various schools and veterans rallies as part of Wreaths Across America’s mission to remember the fallen, honor those who serve in the military and teach children the value of their service.

TCA encourages its members to air this commercial, customized with your company logo, on local television, as well as in local movie theaters. TCA staff can work with your company to create the customized commercial in two business days.

Imagine the image we can deliver if all of us — members and nonmembers, truckers and industry suppliers — run this commercial in movie theaters and on television each Christmas. If we work together and everyone does his or her part, we can do this.

Will you help us get the message out? Contact Debbie Sparks at 703.838.1950 to get involved.

TRAILER/BODY BUILDERS: Trucking Industry Raising Funds for Movement

Trailer/Body Builders:

The trucking industry announced the launch of a fund-raising effort for an industry-wide movement centered on a positive image and a more robust connection with policymakers and the general public.

This initial phase of the movement has been launched online at, where creative materials, messaging, and social media links are available to all elements of the industry as well as the public. Critical to this movement are messages of new trucking technology that has an increased focus on safety, sustainability, efficiency and reliability. But also a focus on just how critical trucking is to the national economy. Supporting almost 7 million jobs, it is one of the largest and growing industries in the country.

“We’re extremely excited for the fundraising effort of this movement to have launched,” said John Conkin, president of the Allied Committee for Transportation (ACT 1). “The trucking industry serves America’s economy, its families and businesses in a way no other industry does. Trucking is essential to the every day lives of all Americans. Our mission today is to make that message stronger and connect our good work with the rest of America.”

The full movement launch will be in March 2014 at the Mid-America Truck Show in Louisville, Ky., the industry’s largest truck show.

ACT 1 is an initial founding member of the movement, which includes: Allison Transmission, Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems, Bridgestone Commercial Solutions, Castrol Heavy Duty Lubricants, Cummins Inc., Dana Holding Corporation, Detroit Diesel Corporation, Eaton Corporation – Roadranger, GE Capital, Goodyear, Great West Casualty Company, Hendrickson, International, J.J. Keller & Associates, Inc., Kenworth Truck Company, Love’s Travel Stops, Mack Trucks, Inc., Meritor, Michelin, Pegasus, TransTech, Peterbilt Motors Company, Omnitracs, Inc. a Qualcomm company, Randall Reilly, TRW, and Volvo Trucks.

Other founding members include: American Trucking Associations (ATA), Bulldog Hiway Express, Combined Transport, Inc., Daimler Trucks North America, Hahn Transportation, Inc., Jet Express, Inc., Longistics, Motor Carrier Service, Inc., Old Dominion Freight Lines, Tennant Truck Lines, Tennessee Express, Inc., and Truckload Carriers Association (TCA).

“This movement won’t be a one-time deal,” said Mike Card, fundraising chairman for the movement. “It involves every single part of the industry, from rest stop owners to drivers to manufacturers, and everything in between. Our hope is every individual involved in the industry – along with their families and supporters – will get involved in one way or another.”

To learn more or to donate to the movement, visit