Comment: Fast-changing technology in the trucking industry

By: David Boyce, CEO, NZ Trucking Association


NZTA takes a look at the rapidly changing technology in the trucking industry

Technology is rapidly changing in the trucking industry. Everything, from new vehicle technologies, driver monitoring, scheduling, communication, and the backroom of your business is fast changing. 

For trucking businesses, it is essential to keep up with this change, not only to remain competitive but also to take advantage of this new technology to reduce costs and increase profit margins.

Some of the biggest changes coming to the trucking industry are the trucks and trailers that we use in our businesses, with many of the following technologies now standard fitment on these vehicles.

Stability Control (ESC)

ESC uses anti-lock braking and traction control to reduce the danger of skidding and loss of control. The system uses sensors to detect loss of control and automatically applies the brake to the relevant wheel to keep the vehicle on the intended path.

Anti-Lock braking systems (EBS)

EBS utilises electronics to control the vehicles braking systems, reducing
stopping distances, and improving braking system performance.

Collision Avoidance Systems

These cutting-edge active safety systems rely on several sensors, cameras, lasers, and short- and long-range radar. They monitor what is going on around the vehicle—vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists, and even road signs—as well as the vehicle itself. Inputs are processed by computers, which then prompt some action from the vehicle or the driver.

Those actions may start with attention-grabbers, such as a beep, a flashing dashboard icon, a tug from the seatbelt, or a vibration in the seat or steering wheel. If the driver doesn’t respond, the more advanced systems then apply partial or full braking force.

Lane Departure Warning Systems (LDWS)

LDWS are in-vehicle electronic systems that monitor the position of a vehicle within a roadway lane and warn a driver if the vehicle deviates or is about to deviate from the lane. LDWS are forward-looking, vision-based systems that use algorithms to interpret video images to estimate vehicle state (lateral position, lateral velocity, heading, etc.) and roadway alignment (lane width, road curvature, etc.). LDWS warn the driver of a lane departure when the vehicle is travelling above a certain speed threshold and the vehicle’s turn signal is not in use.

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Rear-view cameras

These cameras combined with rear-facing radar sensors give drivers safe visibility when reversing, especially in situations where visibility is an issue.

Blind spot warning devices

Blind spot warning systems use a variety of sensors and cameras to provide a driver with information about objects that are outside their range of vision. Cameras can provide views from either side of a vehicle that allows a driver to verify that their blind spots are clear. Sensors help to detect the presence of objects such as cars, cyclists, and pedestrians, and that information can be presented to the driver in several ways.

Improved fuel efficiency and reduced vehicle emissions

Trucks today are more fuel efficient and produce less vehicle emissions than ever before.

Gone are the days of trucks belching out black smoke. Over the last 10 years, emissions from diesel trucks have reduced by more than 90%. It would take 80 modern trucks to produce the same emissions as one truck produced just 20 years ago. When you consider the increased cost of diesel and that the average heavy vehicle age in New Zealand is more than 15 years, this is an important consideration for trucking operators.

Vehicle dimensions

October 2013 saw the introduction of High Productivity Motor Vehicles (HPMV) to New Zealand. This has seen general access motor vehicles increase in size from 44,000kg gross to 50,000kg gross weight, with the overall length remaining the same at 20 metres.
These vehicles are better known as 50MAX vehicle combinations and have one more axle than the conventional 44-tonne vehicles combinations, meaning the overall truckload is spread further and there is no additional wear on roads per tonne of freight. HPMV permits are available by application for specific routes at higher mass and dimension limits.

Driver monitoring systems including in-cab cameras and GPS-based Telematics

One of the biggest concerns trucking operators have is the safety of their drivers.

Integrating GPS tracking with in-cab vehicle cameras allows you to monitor driver safety, verify any issues, and gain proof of what occurred in an incident. These systems generate data from the vehicle and the camera system and provide evidence of the environment outside the vehicle at the time of any incident. In-vehicle cameras encourage drivers to follow company policies when they’re held accountable for unsafe behaviour, such as speeding, harsh braking, rapid acceleration or fatigued driving. If an incident occurs by accident, they’ll feel comfortable knowing the situation has been recorded so they can’t be blamed unfairly by another party. 

It’s undoubtedly an exciting period of change for the trucking industry. Understanding and utilising these new technologies can empower trucking operators to serve their customers better. Taking advantage of and leveraging these new technologies can make your business safer and help increase your revenue and lower your costs.

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