The Future of Transportation

This month, Beverage Industry welcomes transportation expert David Kolman to the magazine. As a veteran truck communicator, keynote speaker and long-haul trucker, David is an involved member of the transportation industry. Commissioned an Honorary Colonel on the Kentucky governor’s staff for his work promoting traffic safety, he participates in trade associations and reports news and information about the trucking industry for broadcasting and print media.
To begin, let me welcome you to this new column. My purpose is to provide you with vital news, information and ideas to help you maximize your transportation efforts.
The starting point for this inaugural column is to take a look ahead. No easy task, as trying to predict the future is a lot like having gas. You know it’s coming, and you have to figure out what to do about it. By gaining insight into tomorrow we can better plan for the future because we will know what we are planning for.
Having consulted horoscopes, tea leaves, tarot cards, crystal balls and a number of seasoned transportation industry professionals, I offer some predictions.
Development and evolution of wheel position- and application-specific tires, “smart” tires and tire systems will continue because they help reduce tire management costs — the second-largest variable cost for truck fleets.
New tire designs, technologies, innovations and advanced tread compounds will provide such benefits as better fuel economy, enhanced performance, extended original tread life, maximum retreadability, increased payload and improved vehicle stability and control.
Look for wheel-specific tire pressure sensing systems; air pressure equalizer systems for dual tires, some of which automatically isolate the good tire in the event of a blowout, and in a slow-leak situation, isolate the other tire after a small pressure drop; tire inflation systems which automatically monitor and maintain inflation levels; in-wheel pressure and temperature sensors, and run-flat tires. Benefits of such systems include improved vehicle handling and safety; increased tread and tire life; enhanced fuel efficiency, and reduced downtime and roadside delays for tire failures — and the driver frustrations that come with these.
Expect to see more integrated tire management systems similar to Michelin’s eTire System. It incorporates an in-tire sensor, sidewall-mounted sensor dock, reader (hand-held or drive-by) and software to capture and instantly report tire pressure, wheel position and maintenance information. The sensor is a small, battery-less device that senses pressure and temperature. The reader is used to wirelessly communicate with the sensor to read the digital pressure, temperature and identification information. Using the software, this gathered information is reported in a fleet specific manner via an Internet server to enable managers to track tire costs accurately and monitor inventories.
Increasingly stringent emission regulations in the United States, as well as around the world, will keep on impacting engine designs, particularly diesels. Scheduled to take effect in 2007 and 2010, new regulations for the commercial vehicle industry demand that particulate matter and oxides of nitrogen emissions be reduced by 90 to 95 percent from current levels. Similarly, stricter European standards will be mandated in 2005 and 2008.
To comply, it is anticipated that all manufacturers will need to implement a combination of exhaust after-treatment systems with engine design and control changes.
The jury is still out on how the new emissions-compliant heavy-duty diesels will perform. Reliability, driveability, performance, fuel consumption, operating and maintenance costs will be determined through time and experience. One sure prediction: these engines will cost more. Estimates range from $6,000 to $10,000.
As for the 2007 low-emissions medium-duty diesels, they are expected to have improved performance and more power and torque than their predecessors, but fuel economy will suffer somewhat. These new engines will also come with a higher price.
Meantime, research and development of advanced propulsion systems — such as diesel hybrid electric and hydrogen fuel-cell technology — is going to continue. The U.S. Postal Service and FedEx are currently investigating gasoline hybrid electric light-duty vehicles.
Trucks of the future will have more sophisticated, lighter-weight designs and be more electronically complicated. They will be more comfortable, safer to operate, have greater durability and longevity and be less expensive to operate and maintain. Expect maintenance-free vehicles for the first million miles.
Electronics, telematics (wireless, two-way communication between a vehicle and its environment), new technologies, satellites and mobile communications will cause more significant changes in trucks and trucking.
We will see systems to prevent vehicle rollovers. Fingerprint ID ignition switches will deter vehicle theft and increase security.
Systems will allow fleets to monitor the location and progress of their trucks; track vehicle speed, fuel consumption, idling, shifting and braking patterns and mechanical status; alert drivers and fleet managers about impending engine problems before breakdowns occur, and provide real-time diagnostics.
There will be systems that reward good drivers and punish bad ones. For example, safe and efficient drivers could be given more speed and horsepower, while bad drivers would get less. Advances will lead to systems that provide detailed turn-by-turn driving directions along with detailed, full-color maps and continual updates of ongoing road changes and restrictions. Other systems will incorporate mobile computing devices and interfaces to more efficiently manage such tasks as pre-sale order entry, driver-sale, merchandising, delivery and inventory control.
The challenge of attracting and retaining qualified, safe drivers and driver route salespeople will remain. Some ways to address the situation would be to develop a good compensation package (salary, benefits, incentives, bonuses, safety and recognition programs), establish good communication (open-door policy to management, newsletters, pay envelope inserts, bulletin boards); create honest and positive orientation programs, and provide regular training.
Your job will become more challenging. Along with trying to stay on top of your ever-demanding duties and responsibilities, you will have to contend with the accelerating pace of innovation, new technologies, regulatory changes, changing distribution methods and strategies, ever more complex trucks and equipment, and changing maintenance products and practices.
Complicating matters further, our ability to produce information and deliver it 24 hours a day is outstripping our ability to process it. Information glut — or infoglut, as it’s come to be known — has been steadily growing, as has the stress to the psyche.
Those who will be the most successful in the future will be the ones who do not drown in information, but rather find knowledge through sorting out what information is essential, analyzing it and then figuring out how best to use it.