The present, and future, of transportation includes automation that makes trucks safer
Decker: ‘Our purpose with automation is not to eliminate the driver, but give them the tools to make their jobs easier through advancements in technology’
For the trucking industry, automation has helped to make the jobs of truckers as they’re on the road safer as it protects them from traffic issues.
And automation continues to evolve for the trucking industry, according to Dale Decker, executive vice president of Decker Truck Line Inc. in Fort Dodge.
Decker said most people aren’t even aware that automation exists.
“We’ve been a part of it without knowing,” he said, adding that most common methods of automation are part of trucker’s daily lives.
In fact, Decker said trucks without any form of automation are rare today.
“At level zero (of automation), the human does everything,” he said. “You’d probably have to go far back in time to see that.”
The most common level of automation is level one, which includes traction control and stability control.
Level zero would include blind spot detection and turn assistance.
“It’s kind of the first stage of the autonomous vehicle,” he said.
Decker added that automation within the trucking industry is continuously being developed.
Eventually, it may get to the point where the trucks are able to drive themselves without drivers.
But Decker said that’s still a long way down the road.
“They’re not talking fully automated vehicles until 2025,” he said.
And even if fully automated trucking does come on board, Decker said that’s not something Decker Truck Line Inc. is interested in pursuing.
“Our purpose with automation is not to eliminate the driver,” he said, “but give them the tools to make their jobs easier through advancements in technology.”
Decker said the push for driverless trucks is mostly coming from the freight market. Because there is a shortage of truck drivers, Decker said the capacity of shipments made via trucking isn’t as much as it could be.
But he added truck drivers are critical to the success of the trucking industry.
“We know the importance of the professional driver in our industry and economy,” he said. “We’re focusing on the role they play, but giving them the tools through professional automation to make them do their jobs easier and more effectively.”
Cutting driver’s jobs is not something the company wants to do.
“But we don’t like looking at eliminating drivers,” he said. “In science fiction, maybe you’ll see that (driverless trucks), but not in the real world. It’s not really on our radars.”
Automation has improved the jobs of truck drivers in multiple ways, according to Decker.
“It’s made their jobs safer,” he said. “There’s a collision mitigation system to reduce the chance of a collision. We look at adaptive cruise systems. Stability control systems to reduce rollovers. All of these increase the safety of the vehicles.”
And the technology continues to evolve, according to Decker.
One piece of technology that is being developed is known as platooning.
He said this will allow trucks to speak to each other wirelessly so they can interact. If they’re all heading the same direction, one truck will serve as the leader and the other trucks will fall in line behind that one.
The trucks will then automatically go the same speed as each other to stay in line and travel together.
“But when it’s time to make deliveries, the drivers will be able to take over for the last few miles before their stop,” he said.
“There are many different levels of autonomy and different applications of autonomy,” he said.