Penske Logistics’ Jeff Jackson mentioned drivers total settle for driver-assistance expertise. (Penske)
[Stay on top of transportation news: Get TTNews in your inbox.]
When Glen Kirk began driving for Outdated Dominion Freight Line greater than 14 years in the past, the truck stunned him by making a rumbling sound when he strayed too removed from the middle of the lane.
“The primary time it did it, I used to be like, ‘What the crap was that?’ ” Kirk mentioned, including that it took a while to get used to the brand new driver-assistance expertise since he was often “the one factor within the truck controlling the place it went.”
ODFL ranks No. 10 on the Transport Matters Prime 100 record of the biggest for-hire carriers in North America.
Drivers like Kirk have needed to develop accustomed to driver-assistance applied sciences such because the lane-assist perform. Fairly frequently, fleets are adopting options comparable to lane departure warnings, collision mitigation and adaptive cruise management with the intention to be as secure as attainable — and to guard themselves from plaintiffs’ attorneys trying to hit them with a nuclear verdict.
Penske Logistics’ Jeff Jackson, govt vice chairman of devoted contract carriage operations, mentioned his division makes use of “nearly the whole lot” on the subject of security expertise for his division’s 8,000 vans and 10,000 drivers.
Penske, which ranks No. 15 on the for-hire TT100, accelerated its fleet substitute cycle a couple of yr in the past and made a particular effort to make sure 100% of its vans are put in with collision mitigation by the tip of this yr. The system derates the truck and engages the brake every time it detects a crash might happen. The transition required Penske to switch some older models before scheduled. All its vans have been geared up with adaptive cruise management for a number of years. That expertise slows the truck to take care of a sure distance from the car in entrance.
Earl Taylor has been driving for Penske since 1997 with 33 years of expertise. He has seen many modifications.
“It looks like each time we recycle our vans, there’s a brand new expertise,” noting that expertise is like having one other educated driver within the seat. “There’s a time period that truckers use about having a companion within the seat, and it was like a joke at first, however now it’s virtually actuality.”
Taylor mentioned he first was hesitant to cede management, however with coaching it turns into second nature. He likened it to shifting from a guide to an automated transmission. He resisted at first however now can’t see himself driving a stick. Adaptive cruise was the toughest to get used to. If the car in entrance is touring 5 mph beneath the velocity restrict, so will the truck. An inattentive trucker can lose plenty of time. Nonetheless, it’s value it, he mentioned.
“We’ve got a time period, ‘The most secure place is by your self,’ and this collision mitigation and adaptive cruise helps you retain your following distance from the tractor no matter how briskly they’re going,” Taylor defined.
ODFL’s Kirk believes his firm’s collision mitigation expertise has made him a safer driver. He’s using a streak of three.5 million accident-free miles and is a member of American Trucking Associations’ elite America’s Street Crew. Nonetheless, he remembers two situations the place a car he was following immediately slowed, and his truck slowed earlier than he might react.
“In the event you’re following anyone and so they slam on the brakes, the collision mitigation for my part works sooner than the human mind can,” he mentioned. “By the point you see the impediment, you understand it in your thoughts that it’s essential to step on the brakes, after which within the time you step on the brakes, I do imagine that the collision mitigation works sooner than the human physique does.”
However, he mentioned the expertise received’t anticipate a car about to show the nook at an intersection like a human driver will.
Kirk, additionally a driver coach, mentioned some college students and fellow drivers complain in regards to the methods’ noises. His Kenworth T880 “has bought a bell and a dinger for the whole lot.” As for the collision mitigation system, “In the event you get inside one second (of following distance), and I say this actually, the truck, like, loses its thoughts. The sprint begins flashing crimson. Cease signal comes up on the sprint. It simply goes berserk as a result of it desires you to get away from the car in entrance of you.”
Penske’s Taylor mentioned youthful drivers are usually extra receptive to the expertise at first.
“I’ve educated plenty of drivers for brand spanking new rent and refresher coaching, and generally the brand new rent coaching, due to their time in class, is less complicated than the refresher coaching,” he mentioned. “As a result of some guys, they’re set of their methods, they’ve been driving for 20-30 years, and so they don’t need to change.” Nevertheless, he famous, “when drivers discover the profit, they know that it makes them safer or it will get them house earlier. They purchase into it instantly.”
Penske’s Jackson mentioned drivers total settle for driver-assistance expertise. He additionally famous the corporate invests a lot vitality into coaching and what he described as “change administration.” The fleet’s discipline security workforce usually engages with drivers in regards to the expertise. Up to now, there was no pushback on the collision mitigation methods, Jackson mentioned. In truth, it’s a promoting level. Penske plans to proceed investing in it, he mentioned, including that its emptiness fee is 4%, and turnover numbers are right down to pre-COVID ranges.
A key to gaining driver acceptance is speaking with them and listening to from them, mentioned C.R. England’s Ron Corridor, vice chairman of apparatus and gasoline; and Aaron Shepherd, vice chairman of security and advertising. The corporate’s fourth-generation house owners have prioritized getting driver suggestions. C.R. England ranks No. 28 on the for-hire TT100.
Executives have a month-to-month driver city corridor convention name and a podcast the place a division head solutions questions. The corporate has its personal driver highway workforce whose vans have a decal informing different drivers that they’re a liaison with the company workplace.
“I believe as an entire, drivers have been very accepting of security applied sciences, possibly partially as a result of we actually clarify what we’re attempting to perform once we undertake a brand new expertise,” Shepherd mentioned, including that the fleet is “very methodical” of their method to implementation. “Our security tradition is we would like our drivers and the general public to get house safely, and we make investments in expertise to assist do this. I believe our drivers are often appreciative. In plenty of instances, drivers will deliver technological concepts or merchandise they need us to check that might even broaden what our present slate of applied sciences are.”
One concern up to now has been collision mitigation methods’ tendency to register false positives. However XPO’s Greg Pawelski, vice chairman of well being and security, mentioned lively security methods’ bettering reliability has helped enhance driver acceptance. Tim Vogt, the fleet’s driver coach, mentioned early collision mitigation expertise would misidentify automobiles, snowbanks or signage as threats. Newer variations are extra correct. Lane departure alerts have develop into extra correct, however he additionally believes the expertise has led drivers to higher place their vans to forestall the warnings from occurring.
XPO ranks No. 5 on the for-hire TT100.
“Sometimes, one of the best lively security expertise operates within the background, solely stepping in when a driver wants it,” he mentioned in an emailed response.
Mauryo Jones, vice chairman of security, well being and safety for Ryder Programs, mentioned it began including lively security system expertise as a normal package deal in its inner fleet on purchases beginning in 2013. Driver acceptance has elevated because the applied sciences have improved their very own experiences, she mentioned. It has develop into simpler because the methods have develop into extra frequent in passenger automobiles. Ryder Provide Chain Options ranks No. 9 on the for-hire TT100.
“We’ve discovered that these methods can act as a driver retention and recruitment instrument,” she mentioned through e-mail. “With developments and steady enchancment leading to fewer false positives, these automated help methods have gotten not simply accepted however anticipated by drivers.”
Are drivers involved the expertise might result in additional advances in autonomous automobiles? No, mentioned Penske’s Taylor, including that the drivers he works with seldom discuss it.
“It’s been mentioned, however I haven’t met a driver but that basically takes that concept completely severely,” he mentioned. “However we do know that it’s going to come back, and guys like me thought we’d by no means have automatics. Whoever thought that we’d have cameras contained in the truck?”
Carriers that spend money on these applied sciences do it as a result of it makes their fleets safer. Nevertheless, expertise alone isn’t sufficient. The easiest way to make sure a truck is secure stays a secure driver.
“The one message I nonetheless attempt to convey to everybody: It doesn’t matter what security gear is within the truck,” Kirk mentioned. “Finally, a well-rested and alert driver is the most secure factor within the car. And for those who don’t have that, I don’t assume it issues what security gear is within the truck, then that’s not a secure car for my part.”