Staying one-step ahead of tech: A challenge for truck drivers

moving transport truck
(© alphaspirit – stock.adobe.com)

As the bells and whistles of new consumer cars become available on commercial trucks, truck drivers are finding that many of these features are as distracting as they are helpful. Many of these technological features, especially automatic emergency braking, may take the feel of the road away from the driver, making drivers more lackadaisical behind the wheel.

With traditional truck drivers struggling to integrate these new technological features into their regular driving habits, it is clear that many need proper training to manage the technology.

Relearning how to drive

Commercial motor carrier trainers have developed tips for truck drivers to avoid letting the tech control their driving experience, but perhaps the most helpful piece of advice is to drive as if the safety feature is not there at all.

Henry Albert, the owner of Albert Transport, has been one of the biggest advocates for this line of thinking. Albert is not only an experienced trainer in commercial car driving, but he also has a fundamental understanding of how these technological features function.

Since managing the tech is vital in ensuring it is safe and efficient, Albert demonstrates to his students what the tech is searching for, rather than depending on its functionality.

Albert instructs his students to see what the technology sees when looking through their windshield, helping the driver know what to look for without telling them it is all figured out. These safety features need drivers to assist them in working correctly, and Albert’s instruction helps truckers avoid relying on them too heavily.

Much of the industry-wide discussion on these new safety features revolves around how smart they are. However, truck drivers who actually utilize this tech are keen to point out that they may seem quite stupid. Albert claims that rather than blame the technology for its intelligence, people need to grasp that they are simply computers operating on logic, not smart or stupid. Once truck drivers are cognizant of the logic, they can stay ahead of the safety feature and employ it as it was intended, as a last-ditch effort in an emergency.

Secondary tips when using safety features

Outside of understanding the technology and learning to drive without it, Albert has two other recommendations for truckers to master driving with advanced safety features.

The first piece of advice is to ensure you leave enough space between vehicles, aiming for a minimum of around 100 feet. This practice helps avoid hard braking events and reduces the likelihood of rear-ending someone.

The second tip is to fight the innate desire to push technology to the limit. With many truckers paid by the mile yet regulated hourly, finding the balance between getting there quickly and safely can be difficult. However, Albert urges truckers not to drive up to that new limit, as it will deteriorate the driving experience and reduce safety.

Personal injury lawyer Amy Gaiennie of the Gaiennie Law Office agrees. “While technology is sure to make the driving experience safer and save lives, it is no replacement for safe driving habits,” Gaiennie says. “Truck drivers should continue to maintain a safe distance and stay alert so that the technology can enhance the driving experience, rather than serve as a last-resort safety mechanism.”

Resistant to change

Truckers have been hesitant to buy into these new technologies as they have hampered their feel for the road while also complicating their traditional road habits.

When implementing event recorders and inward-facing cameras, drivers initially expressed privacy concerns, but these have begun to fade over time. Drivers have become much more receptive to having cameras when another car jumps into the area between the truck and the vehicle in front. The inward-facing cameras give truck drivers extended protection against rear-ending someone, especially if the camera shows the driver was paying attention during a collision.

Regardless of whether these technologies are embraced, trucking companies must ensure they explain how the technology actually functions, particularly if the technology could save their career and life.


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