Why the Sudden Evolution of the Trucking Industry?
Technological advancement has always been a driving force behind innovation within the trucking industry starting as early as 1910. With changes to the internal structure of trucks, and the advent of the tractor/semi-trailer combination, distribution by truck started to gain momentum.
It didn’t actually pick up steam until World War I, though, when railroads became so congested that a new form of distribution was necessary. In order for trucks to survive as a mode of distribution, they needed tires that were able to support more weight and higher speeds.
The next innovation to take the industry by storm was the creation of interstates in the 1950s. This made it easier for truck drivers to carry goods throughout the United States.
The 1970s saw the greatest rise in popularity for truckers with the introduction of “trucker culture,” which still exists today. Truckers were considered nomads, cowboys and outlaws. Their use of CB radio, plaid shirts and trucker hats was co-opted by the public, further contributing to the idolization of these men.
The Future of Trucking
Until recently, the trucking industry continued to operate within this same vacuum. Recent advancements in technology have begun to break down the barriers that trucking companies have built around themselves. These advancements, combined with increased environmental regulations have forced those within the industry to take a critical look at how they do business.
Smart roads is a term used to describe the various forms of technological advancements – like smart pavement to generate solar energy, improvements to autonomous cars and the monitoring of road conditions – that are being implemented and tested all across the United States. The hope is that as technology expands, it can be used to advance the transportation industry, as well.
Truck platooning allows trucks to communicate with one another over wireless connections so that they all maintain the same speed, brake at the same time and travel with little space between them. It allows trucks to lower their fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, boost traffic flows and improve traffic safety.
One of the main arguments against widespread acceptance of electric medium- and heavy-duty trucks is that there is not the infrastructure within the U.S. to continually recharge the trucks as they make their way across state lines. Whether or not the executive actions by former president Barack Obama concerning EV infrastructure will be continued under the Trump administration is still unknown.
The expansion of technology within the trucking industry is slow-moving. The majority of the new innovations gaining traction among key industry leaders are still in early testing phases, so there is little definitive proof as to the actual benefits or consequences of these new technologies. It is encouraging to see the industry begin to accept – or at the very least consider accepting – these innovative changes.