Truck driving has been an industry for many, many decades. It offers people a unique opportunity to see the country and provide a service to a corporation or smaller business. While it can often have its ups and downs, there are a lot of benefits to the profession of truck driving. As the world gets more advanced with various fields- and technology evolves with it- truck driving is one of the industries that will also have to adapt to the changes in technology.
Truck driving became a necessity during the 20th century. According to Logistik, at the turn of the century, most businesses only needed small delivery trucks to get what they needed. Beginning in the 1920’s, that all changed when the semi-trailer was introduced. In 1935 the Motor Carrier Act was established- which implemented some important safety regulations for the now large amount of semi-trucks on the roads.
Refrigerated trailers became available in the 1950’s. This allowed for cold and frozen items to be shipped without them melting in the long distances. This also became an advantage for the drivers- as they were now allowed to enjoy refrigerated food or a beverage while on the road.
Trucking gained national attention in the 1960’s and 70’s- when songs about truck driving became a major hit. Trucking then evolved into the freight industry, and later logistics, as more “big box” stores came into the picture- like Walmart and Target. As those “big box” stores grew and grew- the need for large shipments and stable trailers became more apparent. Important features were added to semi-trucks to allow for larger shipments- while keeping the items free from any damage or the elements.
As the freight industry continues to grow- and more and more businesses and households rely on larger stores to get them what they need- technology must advance to keep up with the ever-changing world. Some of this technology has been implemented in the last few decades- such as better cell coverage for drivers, GPS installed in trucks, and even tracking so companies, businesses, and homeowners can find out just where their order is at all times. While these advances can be great for drivers- it also presents new challenges. The “Big Brother” aspect gives a lot of drivers pause- as it’s often hard to think about someone always watching you as you drive from city to city. The data of each driver then gets reported to the federal government- which makes some people uncomfortable.
As technology gets even more advanced- the trucking industry must also advance. This is where changes in trucks come in. Many companies are already implementing these changes- such as trucks that run electric instead of diesel fuel, hydrogen for long-range trips, and even hybrid models to allow for better overall efficiency on the road. Daimler, a German company, has worked on hydrogen technology for decades. It is developing a fuel-cell semi with a range of up to 600 miles (1000 kilometers) per fueling and next-generation battery trucks amid intensifying competition to curb diesel and carbon exhaust from heavy-duty vehicles.
With Tesla booming for self-driving vehicles- they still don’t have self-driving cars, and when we were young, we thought we would be flown by these autonomous vehicles. According to flockfreight.com, trucking companies are testing features in semi-automated trucks (which depend on the drive). Advocates claim more efficiencies and lower costs which makes sense. But then there is reality and that is not in the near future. Probably decades to come for self-driving cars and then maybe decades for trucks. That could all stop with some lawsuits too.
Next, there is the federal government and its involvement. This seems to be a challenge all the time based on the admiration in charge. There are bills on both sides of the legislation for consideration. In 2021, there are several regulations that could impact the industry including Driver Classification Laws, Speed Limiters, Hours of Service, Drug testing, and Emissions. The Biden Administration has its eye on climate policies which could mean bolstered emissions regulations as it aligns with “green” agendas. This is leading to battery companies are getting involved with freight companies to help with fuel efficiency and battery power over gas power. The eCascadia is a battery-powered truck. The company behind the battery pack is aiming for lower emissions- and even zero emissions. Achieving 300,000 zero-emission miles means the next goal is to reach one million and keep going after that. One of the supporters of the Freightliner Innovation Fleet is South Coast Air Quality Management District. It focuses on improving the air quality in Southern California's South Coast Basin and partially funded the Innovation Fleet. Freightliner plans to start production on the eCascadia and eM2 series as early as mid-2022.
Truck and freight driving has come a long way since being first introduced in the early 1900’s. Initially used by the military in World War I, trucking is now a very popular business and a stable career for many people. That said, the most likely scenario is a hybrid option for cars rather than fully electric or self-driving. There are a lot of benefits to truck drivers. Truck drivers can communicate with dispatch, ensure control if something goes wrong, and even joke with each other and with other truck drivers. There is a large community for truck drivers- and there are even code words for different things on the road that they can communicate. Technology is advancing every day, but we are not quite ready to become The Jetsons. It will be a while before all-electric and self-driving vehicles are dominating the roads. Probably when cars really do fly, we maybe comfortable with autonomous driving. Until then, it’s important for truck drivers to stay on top of the career and keep at it until the industry changes. Driving for autonomous driving could be situational- like at night or for really long distances. A transition could make sense to go from today’s drivers to computer-assisted, to driver-assisted, and then when all vehicles are flying. Truck drivers will most likely be in control for a long time to come.
Truck driving is a stable, good career for many people and families. It allows for drivers to see the country and help businesses deliver items to customers anywhere. The industry has evolved a lot since it was first introduced. Now, the future of freight and trucking is technological advances. Electric and semi-automated trucks are going to be taking over the current-driven, diesel-powered semis we all know today. It will be a long time before every truck is powered by AI, but until then, we can take comfort knowing that there are steps being taken to ensure cost-effective and energy-efficient options within logistics. Things like hybrid trucks, energy-efficient trailers, etc. are all working to reduce the overall emissions- and helping our planet as a result. In addition, truck drivers are working hard to make their voices heard within their company- fighting for fair wages, timed breaks, and better conditions. Companies working on electric and hybrid-driven trucks are just coming to the mainstream of the industry- and again, it will be a while before this is the norm. For now, truck drivers should be considered as essential as if they stopped the world would stop. Now and even decades to come, or maybe until the Jetson’s is reality. It has only been 50 years so far…