Using technology correctly

by Derek Clouthier

With the ever-evolving technological landscape in the trucking industry, training and education have never been more important than it is today, and it isn’t about to change any time soon.

During a discussion at the Manitoba Trucking Association (MTA) AGM in Winnipeg April 7, a panel that included five professionals from various industry leaders concurred that technology, though challenging, made people’s lives better.

“I think these technologies are coming to the forefront to make life better for society,” said Randy Fleming, district sales manager for Volvo Trucks Canada. “The trucking industry is the backbone of society…and we are in a position as an industry within society to influence positively and make life better for society.”

Fleming pointed out that thousands of people are killed on North American highways every year, and some of those incidents involve commercial vehicles. But with the implementation of new technologies, commercial drivers are able to operate vehicles in safer manner.

Collision mitigation systems were one example Fleming highlighted, saying the technology had enabled brake time to be reduced from a 1.5 second response time to .03, something that will inevitably save lives.

Trent Siemens, director of maintenance at Paul’s Hauling and general manager of Oak Point Service, said with new technology comes the need for continued education and training.

“We need to educate ourselves on the technology, we need to understand it a lot more so than in the past. We’re finding that we need to quickly gain knowledge on how (something) works and what it’s going to do for us,” Siemens said. “You have to assess it as quick as you can because by the time you’ve made a decision whether this is going to apply or be a benefit, the technology has changed and you’re starting over again, and this seems to be happening faster in the last five to eight years.”

Siemens cautioned that trucking companies need to do their due diligence to weed out the snake oil and understand which technologies work best for each individual company.

He also did not mince any words voicing his opinion on the ultimate technological advancement, autonomous trucks. Siemens said even the simpler advancement of the past few years, such as aftertreatments, have not gone as smoothly as some believed they would, and that it was in fact an “abysmal failure” for many.

“It really was for us fleets,” he said. “We suffered right from EGR (exhaust gas recirculation) through DPF (diesel particulate filters) filters and DEF (diesel exhaust fluid). It was and is a significant challenge for us.”

Siemens said the challenges of aftertreatments would not even compare to those that autonomous trucks would pose.

“I don’t think society will ever accept (autonomous trucks) without a pilot,” Siemens said, “and if you have to have a pilot then where’s our savings?”

Siemens said automated transmissions, anti-idling devices and something as simple as LED lights have made a huge impact on his company’s bottom line.

Bison Transport equipment acquisitions and innovation manager Steven Orbanski said when it comes to investing in technologies, carriers could look at something simple, like LED lights and rust inhibitors, or could opt for something more complex, like automated transmissions, which could cause additional costs, but also eventually pay off with less driver fatigue and better fuel economy.

“You can’t always look at that bottom line on fuel and tires, it’s that balance right across on what you’re trying to do as a fleet and a company.”

Robert Friesen, on-highway business representative for Cummins, said he believed fuel economy will continue to be the driving factor
for technological advancement in the industry.

“We’re being forced as a manufacturer to meet certain fuel economy numbers and so are the OEMs,” Friesen said, “and I think that’s driving a lot of what’s happening with the technology we’re looking at.”

Friesen said Cummins was looking at what is called a heat recovery system, where the engine uses a component to recapture the 60% of heat loss it generates through its operation to help power the vehicle.

Steve Matson, technical sales support manager for Daimler Trucks Canada’s Detroit Diesel, said he believes the diesel engine is going nowhere anytime soon unless something drastic occurs to the price of diesel fuel.

From a personal standpoint, Matson said electro-locomotive technology, where the engine drives a generator with electric drive wheel-end motors, was something that could pop up in the near future, but predicting what would happen in the next decade was difficult given the swift pace of technological advancements.

As for how to manage all the data available in today’s advanced world, Friesen and Fleming agreed that the right information has to get into the hands of the right people for it to be used properly.

“There are a lot of fleets that are not taking advantage of the data that’s available,” added Matson, saying data collection is not a sideline job.

Have your say

We won't publish or share your data