Technology And Trucking

Then and Now

This month’s issue is emphasizing technology, so I thought I would write a few thoughts on technology and trucking, from the way things used to be to today’s modern methods.

Communications
Remember when we used to want to talk to our drivers while out on the route? We’d call ahead to a customer’s location where we thought the driver might be, and ask the customer to have the driver call back in. Drivers borrowing the customer’s phones changed to using pay phones along the route. Then along came radios and what we thought was practically instant messaging when we didn’t even know what the term meant. We moved on to pagers, but the driver still had to stop and use a landline phone to call in. Then we moved on to cab-mounted phones and expensive minutes, but we were communicating. The cell phones changed and improved over the years with prices coming down and minutes getting cheaper all the time. Now we have many members talking instantly with Nextel as if they were across the building or parking lot when they are across town or in another city or state.

Asset Control
Remember the days of tracking your cylinders on index cards? Then we moved up to manually putting serial numbers into a spreadsheet or an invoicing system. Next we moved up to very large, cumbersome and often delicate scanners. Today, we use handheld PDAs or scanners that fit into pockets and have enough memory to hold your entire parts list, inventory and cylinder population, and they update your main system in seconds.

Invoicing
How about on-the-truck invoice printing? Remember when we had heavy laptops and either thermal or impact printers in the cabs? Today we have handheld PDAs and small bubble-jet or inkjet printers to print the customer an invoice at the point of delivery.

Security
Global Positioning Systems (GPS) let us know exactly where our vehicles are at any moment. We can see if they are on the proper route or if they have been hijacked or stolen. With remote engine shutdown systems, we can even turn off the engines from a remote location if we suspect a stolen vehicle.

Operations
GPS has many uses other than security. It lets us see exactly where the truck has gone in real time and over which streets. It tells us how fast the truck was driven, where it stopped, and for how long. It can show the exact route the driver has taken that day, including those times the driver either backtracked or drove across town multiple times in the same day. It can also show us if the truck was shut off at each stop, or if it was left running all day wasting fuel and causing extra wear and tear on the engine.

Regulations and Information
Remember when you had to read about something in a magazine, subscription service or book? Then you could purchase information of all kinds on a CD to load onto your laptop or even your PDA. Today, you can go online and find just about anything you might want to know.

Technology has come a long way in the last few years and I can only begin to imagine what things will be like in the future. All I can say is hang on and enjoy the ride.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association
Meet the Author
GAWDA DOT & Security Consultant Michael Dodd is president of MLD Safety Associates in Poplar Bluff, Missouri. Members can reach him at 573-785-5111 and at mldsafety@hotmail.com.