Four-wheelers are changing fast ― most manufacturers expect driverless vehicles to hit the road in 2020 ― and some of the best features are trickling down into the transportation industry.
New class 8s are more technologically advanced than ever before, which means owners and drivers have more options when it comes to available features in their vehicles.
While not all of the truck tech is absolutely necessary, most of it truly enhances the way truckers drive, allowing them to move faster and safer than they could in previous makes and models. Greater efficiency and safety saves money, which justifies the cost to implement the upgrades. If you can’t afford upgrades right away, consider financing options such as working with a bank or a factoring company for truckers.
The following seven features are certainly must-haves for truckers who want to stay relevant on the tech-filled roads ahead.
1. Active Safety
The best way to stay safe in a semi is to be constantly alert and aware, but even so, many truckers fail to notice circumstances that could place them and fellow drivers in danger. Thankfully, many of the active safety technologies in passenger vehicles are also being integrated into heavy-duty machines to prevent crashes on the road. Some of the most impressive active safety features include:
- Driver alertness detection systems
- Automatic braking systems
- Adaptive cruise control
- Lane departure warning systems
- Traction control systems
- Electronic stability control systems
2. Passive Safety
Still, some collisions are unavoidable ― largely due to the cavalier nature of four-wheelers on highways. Though semis might seem indestructible, drivers of large vehicles still have at a high risk of serious injury or death when behind the wheel. Passive safety features work to keep drivers and passengers protected during a crash.
In heavy-duty trucks, having well-placed airbags is incredibly important, as millions of drivers have received debilitating injuries from their steering wheels during an impact. A strong safety cell around the cab is also crucial, as most trucker fatalities are due to high-speed rollovers.
The best truckers are able to maximize their uptime, and certain tech in their trucks will only make them better at being on the road. Some trucks, like the currently available Volvo 780 for sale, come with diagnostic tools that display important actionable updates about the truck’s status. Many of these systems are so refined that drivers can accurately anticipate malfunctions before they occur and plan for necessary repairs in advance. Then, they won’t waste time on emergency fixes and can get back on the road faster.
Perhaps the most thrilling technological innovation for fleet operations is in the field of telematics, or long-distance communication. After partnering with a telematics provider, like Verizon Networkfleet or Teletrac, trucking companies can monitor individual trucks, often in fine detail. For example, some systems allow dispatchers to view fuel consumption in vehicles, which tells them precisely when truckers will need to stop for gas. The introduction of telematics in vehicles has dramatically increased both safety and efficiency in commercial fleets, which means purchasing a telematics-ready truck is a significant boon.
While contact between drivers and their dispatchers is vital, communication between truckers is just as useful. In the past, truckers used CB radios to learn about unforeseen roadwork, lane closures, traffic, and more ― as well as to enjoy conversation with their peers. Today, use of CB radio has drastically declined in favor of a feature in some of the newest rigs: Wi-Fi. Truckers with smartphones can connect to the internet to learn about upcoming road conditions and touch base with fellow drivers in the area.
6. Fuel Economy
Commercial trucks are already some of the most fuel-efficient vehicles on the highway; in fact, for passenger cars to equal a big rig’s fuel economy, they would need to achieve more than 150 miles per gallon. Even so, manufacturers continue to improve semis’ fuel consumption. Some of the most obvious changes are on the outside of trucks and trailers; more aerodynamic designs are extremely effective at increasing mileage. Additionally, hybrid trucks that rely on combinations of energy ― including electricity, hydrogen cells, and diesel ― can travel farther than diesel-only engines and produce fewer emissions.
The comfort of a cab is easily one of the most important features to any trucker. When one must spend hours upon hours in the same position, a space made more comfortable through science and technology is highly desirable. Studies show that exposure to the jarring, shaking, noisy engine increases driver fatigue and pain, which means finding a truck with a suitably restful interior is essential to successful transportation. Volvo has one of the most advanced systems for driver comfort, as the brand’s Bose Ride system stabilizes the cab and reduces road noise.