By Markie Martin, Cassie Buchman, and Nichole Berlie, NewsNation
(NewsNation) —From new devices tracking drivers’ hours on the road to nicer truck stops, technology is changing the way the trucking industry looks.
“It’s so cliche to say the future is here, but it is,” Mike Soricelli, with fleet management company EROAD, said.
A tool called an electronic logging device eliminates the need for a traditional CB radio that truckers usually use. Also called an ELD, it is a removable tablet that tracks how long the driver works, tells them when to take breaks and helps them message each other, helping companies manage maintenance and providing drivers with route optimization.
Many electronic logging devices these days are integrated with cameras, not just outward-facing but inside the cab as well. These cameras watch and record drivers’ actions, like cellphone use, accidents and high-speed turns.
Back in 2017, the government mandated that all truckers have electronic logging devices with them.
Not all changes that have been made in recent years are inside the truck. Tractors themselves are also at a crossroads, with some companies testing renewable natural alternatives to use for fuel.
Travel Centers of America, one of the nation’s largest truckstop chains, is well-positioned to handle the slow but almost certain switch to alternative fuels, CEO Jon Pertchick said.
“We can have fossil and nonfossil fuels coexisting for the next decade or more,” Pertchik said.
Travel Centers of America is also spending millions of dollars refreshing its sites, turning them from a traditional truck stop into a lounge with various amenities. These include pool tables, state-of-the-art laundry facilities and healthy food choices.
“Big fleets all now realize the importance of taking care of their drivers and driver wellness as a part of that,” Pertchik said.
While more and more companies try to push the industry into the 21st century, many truckers fear certain advancements, like autonomous driving tech, will make them irrelevant.
Wiley Deck is vice president of government affairs and public policy at Plus (formerly Plus.ai) — a leading provider of self-driving truck technology — and says that’s not necessarily the case.
“Thats a fear people really shouldn’t have” Deck tells “Rush Hour” Friday.
Speaking to the shortage of truck drivers, Deck explains how one of the most difficult tasks fleets have is trying to encourage folks to apply to become a long-haul truckers because of the demanding hours and time away from home.
“That’s why companies like Plus are trying to fill that gap where we’re seeing that shortage of drivers,” said Deck.
Deck goes on to say that these trucks can even create jobs, citing studies from the Department of Labor which say if you’re in training in the trucking industry now as a driver, you’ll be able to retire as a driver.
“This this is more of an evolution of the technology and not a revolution,” Deck says. “As these trucks get on the road and get rid of those inefficiencies that are in the system now. You’re going to see increased easier routes that gets people into the industry,” he continued.