Truck News


Editorial Comment: Preparing for a bump in the technology superhighway

As the saying goes, you're not supposed to cry over spilled milk. It's as good advice as any, but it does not say anything about a glass of water, which as it just so happens nearly reduced me to tear...

As the saying goes, you’re not supposed to cry over spilled milk. It’s as good advice as any, but it does not say anything about a glass of water, which as it just so happens nearly reduced me to tears in January.

I’m not really a morning person, and at the best of times, my fine motor skills don’t seem to reach normal working order until the late afternoon. So it’s probably no surprise that one recent Friday morning I spilled a glass of water on my desk, submerging my laptop and essentially ending my workday. Not surprising, but still devastating. Luckily, the gentleman at the computer hospital reassured me it would just require a new motherboard and everything on the hard drive was safe.

For the better part of a week, while my computer sat in technology limbo, I worked from a friend’s laptop – slowly. With all my files, data and contact lists stuck in hiatus, the ease to which I usually produce documents from my computer was slowed to a pace resembling downtown rush hour traffic.

Every person who learned of my plight just shook their heads at the fact I did not have all my files backed up on a memory stick. I’ve heard of this backup plan before, but figured nothing tragic would happen to my computer. Turns out I was wrong.

As the trucking industry continues its advance down the technology superhighway, more and more information is being shared through technology. Instant communication between drivers and dispatchers; GPS tracking and mapping; instant monitoring of truck and engine maintenance; instant notification of bills and receipts through e-mail; and software to monitor fuel mileage, tire pressures, truck speed and hours on the road.

As well, US border officials have recently moved forward with the Automated Commercial Enforcement e-manifest program at 67 border crossings across the US, with all 99 crossings expected to be equipped with the program by the end of the year. The program requires drivers to submit advanced electronic cargo information, in the form of an e-manifest, to border officials prior to reaching the border.

Expediting service at the border and reducing wait times in the process is an excellent idea. But a complete reliance on technology can lead to a slowdown in production without a proper contingency plan in the event of a technology malfunction, or spilled water.

Truckers who fail to comply with ACE program requirements face the prospect of being turned away at the border; and the potential of fines up to $10,000 for glaring neglect of the new regulations. But what if apparent neglect is no more than a breakdown in telecommunications – a system temporarily offline, or one klutzy moment resulting in a fried circuit somewhere in a system of wires.

A bump in the technology superhighway – either from border patrol officers or carriers – has the potential to cause problems across an entire supply chain, especially with the increased demand of just-in-time delivery. In just a few hours, all the important contents of my hard drive were saved to a memory stick, just in case my fine motor skills are extremely depleted again some morning. Let’s hope a similar backup plan has been developed for the trucking industry; in case a few wires get crossed along the way.

– Steven Macleod can be reached by phone at (403) 275-3160 or by e-mail at

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