Technology will soon alter existing jobs and create new ones. And now is the time to be considering how your fleet will navigate those changes. Photo: Daimler Trucks North America

Technology will soon alter existing jobs and create new ones. And now is the time to be considering how your fleet will navigate those changes. Photo: Daimler Trucks North America

Henry Ford didn’t invent the automobile. He just designed a vehicle that met the needs of the vast majority of customers at the time, then went about figuring out how to build them quickly and cheaply so those people could buy his cars.

Likewise, Clessie Cummins didn’t invent the diesel engine. Rudolf Diesel did. But Cummins figured out to package the engines and make them efficient enough to work in highway trucks.

And, regardless of what you hear from time to time, the Wright Brothers did invent the airplane. Just as importantly, the figured out how to control an airplane in flight – a pretty vital concept that no one else working on heavier-than-air flight had even considered. But they soon became ensnarled in endless lawsuits attempting to protect the patents surrounding their flying machine and quickly lost the technological edge as their competitors developed more efficient airplanes and the methods to control them.

"I expect the caveman who invented the club was pretty bummed out when he showed up for a battle and found out the other guy had invented the spear."

This sort of thing has been going on as long as technology has been around. I expect the caveman who invented the club was pretty bummed out when he showed up for a battle and found out the other guy had invented the spear. That guy probably did pretty well for a while, until the guy who invented the bow and arrow showed up on the battlefield one day.

And on and on and on…

If there’s a lesson in those little historical anecdotes, it's that it's important to keep in mind that nothing is settled in terms of new technology. Although there are a lot of visionaries out there touting new products that will soon transform our world, the vision of that future, and how new technology will fit into it, will probably be very different from we eventually end up with one day.

That said, I am convinced electric trucks and autonomous trucks are going to enter into mainstream trucking applications soon – sooner than a lot of people, in fact. But I don’t think we’re all going to wake up one morning and find fleets of robot-driven tractor-trailers gliding silently up and down our highways.

It’s far more likely that things will move slowly at first, while people like you take stock of a new technology’s strengths and weaknesses and begin to figure out how to balance them out in ways that make a fleet more efficient and more profitable.

It will be a trial-and-error process, and many questions will have to be answered. New jobs in fleet offices, shops and dealerships will likely be created. New career paths will appear. Tech schools, already dangerously behind the curve, are going to have to scramble as radically new vehicle systems come into use. Drivers jobs will change as well – although I’m hopeful we’ll see an era where their work becomes safer and less stressful as the first autonomous systems come on line.

Sticking your head in the sand and pretending that these technologies aren’t going to impact your business isn’t an option. While there’s no need to panic, I’ve talked to several futurists who’ve told me that given the rate of change today, fleets that do fall behind on the technology front will never be able to catch up. Which means that keeping an eye on what’s happening, thinking about the implications and opportunities new technology will offer, is critical now so you’ll be ready with fresh ideas when the planning and execution phase of trucking’s tech wave finally arrives.  

Author

Jack Roberts
Jack Roberts

Jack Roberts

As a licensed commercial driver, HDT senior editor Jack Roberts often reports on ground-breaking technical developments and trends in an industry being transformed by technology. With more than two decades covering trucking, in Truck Tech he offers his insights on everything from the latest equipment, systems and components, to telematics and autonomous vehicle technologies.

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As a licensed commercial driver, HDT senior editor Jack Roberts often reports on ground-breaking technical developments and trends in an industry being transformed by technology. With more than two decades covering trucking, in Truck Tech he offers his insights on everything from the latest equipment, systems and components, to telematics and autonomous vehicle technologies.

View Bio
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