We smaller operators have a considerably different wish list than the big trucking companies. Rates, roads, ambitions, etc. are the obvious, but the one that really comes to mind lately, for me, is the available technological improvements and changes to equipment.
Super-single tires, for example, hold no allure to me, or a lot of other smaller companies. The same tire size fitting the whole fleet, in all wheel positions, provides a financial savings of its own. Add to that the damage that occurs if one of those big fellas explodes, or the fact that you can’t gently limp to a tire shop in the event of a flat, necessitating a service call, or worse, destroying a rim trying to get off the road to a safe repair position, and any fuel savings are lost.
Our company does precious little van work, and what it does do, involves a strange configuration loading dock that would likely destroy side skirts, so again, no interest. I don’t think a trailer tail would accomplish much on a flatbed, so again, count me out.
There are a few small technologies that would interest me however, and to my knowledge, nobody’s thought of them. With scientific advancements, they could end up in full production by the time this goes to print, but so far, there’s been nothing. Considering we can already remotely monitor engine operation and reefer temperature, most of my wish list could be easily attainable. None are really high-tech and all should be attainable.
1. A heart rate/algorithm monitor in the bunk. The human rights people would lynch me for this, but the fundamental flaw in electronic logs (here I go again), is they monitor the truck, not the driver. Who cares if the truck stayed stationary for 10 hours if the driver’s eyes were open for eight of them? Years ago, I delivered a load of paper to a printing press in upstate New York at night.
The receiver asked if I drew the short straw. He explained: Four trucks came down from Quebec every night. The drivers would draw straws. The loser stayed all night shuttling everybody’s trailers, while the other three closed down the neighbouring strip club. After sleeping three hours, they would have breakfast, then go home. An electronic log would show eight hours off-duty.
2. A remote torque sensor on winches and binders on flatbeds. It would give the carrier early notice when drivers either need further instruction on proper load securement, or need to be replaced with someone more diligent about load security.
3. A ‘proper pre-trip sensor.’ Another remote download, one connected to the hood, and preferably, the dipstick. It was drummed into my head in my early teens that you never start a sleeved diesel engine without first checking fluids.
On older equipment, the coolant was as apt to be in the pan as in the rad. If you find that out after you start the engine, it’s too late. It continues to amaze me how few hoods are opened during pre-trips, even though DOT regulations specify fluid and belt checks.
Maybe a fibre optic-style sensor to show the carrier which lights are not lit, and not being reported or repaired. While we’re at it, a full gauge review, so we can see if the truck is taking off at full throttle before acceptable coolant temperature is attained, or being moved with just barely enough air pressure to release parking brakes.
4. A sensor attached to the fifth wheel, measuring the speed the truck is moving at hook-up (haven’t we all seen someone slam under a trailer way too fast?), or alerting the carrier when the wheel or pin is too dry? Too much pin-to-pin work breeds dry fifth wheels, and too many drivers don’t seem to notice, or care.
5. The next remote read-out toy may be available soon. How about a sensor that measures axle weights, and if the driver doesn’t correct improper settings in short order, alerts the carrier so they can notify the driver before the truck gets to a scale? We’ve always relied heavily on knowledge of air gauge readings, so we can (somewhat closely) scale the truck right where you load it, as long as you have level ground. Such a weight sensor would alert the carrier to drivers that either haven’t learned the gauge, or aren’t paying attention.
6. A “multiple direction-change” sensor. This would identify when the truck has to change direction more than the usual three or four times when backing into a dock. It would be up to the carrier to then identify if the driver’s skills are lacking, or your customers are giving your drivers some real rat-holes to back into. Either one causes unnecessary extra driveline wear. Which brings us to…
7. A “driveline torque” sensor. Some drivers are on their rare best behaviour during the interview/road test, reverting to their old habits of trying to pull the left front wheel off the ground with every shift after they’re hired. Besides unnecessary wear, it gives a very poor public image of the way your equipment is operated. Pretty basic stuff, huh? Now we just need people smarter than I am to build it.
Bill Cameron and his wife Nancy own and operate Parks Transportation, a four-truck flatdeck trucking company. Bill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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