The IAA Commercial Vehicles Exhibition in Hannover, Germany served as a stage for trucking news, with innovative ideas to help generate career interest and provide the next generation of truckers with the tools they need to keep up with the demands of their work. These innovations are the future of trucking.

Daimler displayed the first self-driven trucks, which can relieve the driver from as much as 50% of his driving time at speeds of up to 85 km/h. These vehicles can be driven without human assistance. The driver can turn his seat to put his feet up, while working on his computer, Skyping his family or booking his next load.

The Highway Pilot system, commercially available by 2025 if the government provides the legislative framework to allow it, will allow truckers to transition from drivers to traffic managers. The system will alleviate the boring aspects of driving the truck and allow them to multitask, managing their business while rolling down the highway.

One caveat, lest you think it is fully automated, a driver will always be necessary, to monitor the system and to take control when performing certain maneuvers such as passing other vehicles. This would create an environment not unlike that of an airliner, where the pilot is always present despite most of the journey being completed on autopilot.

ZF Friedrichshafe (ZF = Zahnradfabrik, or “Gear Factory”) also demonstrated an Innovation Truck that can be driven at low speeds from outside the vehicle using a tablet and software app. It will be years before automated trucks are legal to use on the highways, but the system ZF demoed could be utilized today in truck yards and port settings. Backing a 83 foot, double-trailer combination through a set of cones was so simple, a child could have done it.

While many truckers are fearful these new technologies will affect their job security, these products offer the potential to make the profession more attractive to the truckers of the future, who grew up with a tablet in their hands. I imagine the industry will have many more applicants when drivers are able to back their rig using a tablet or put the truck on autopilot while they chat with their buddies or make plans for their time off.

In all honesty, the trucking industry has done a horrible job making itself attractive to the next generation of drivers. There have been some minor changes in heating/air conditioning and small increases in pay for over the road truckers, but I believe technology can save the industry from itself and make trucking an objective for younger people.

And, it was not only European companies rolling out new technology.  American Power Group – a provider of turbocharged natural gas and dual-fuel conversion technology for vehicular, stationary and off-road mobile diesel engines – launched a new website to provide a user-friendly interface for communicating with drivers about the company and its products. The new site allows users to quickly and efficiently understand the cost-benefit ratio of its products.

Optronics International, announced the latest generation of GloLight LED stop, tail and turn lamps. The lamps are more advanced while costing less than the original line introduced two years ago. The company reduced the size of the lamp’s printed circuit board by 50 percent by using both its front and back surfaces; LEDs on one side directly form the lamp’s illuminated central array, while LEDs on the opposite side use special reflective optics that further enhance the smooth, glowing outer band.

Kenworth’s new brochure on its new K270 Class 6 and K370 Class 7 models provides comprehensive product information, including detailed specs for the Paccar PX-7 6.7-liter engine, engine equipment and transmissions, gross, axle weight rating (GAWR), suspensions, wheels/tires/brakes, frame, cab, electrical system, paint and options. Also shown are K270 and K370 dimensions for cab to axle, axle to end of frame, wheelbase, truck length and body length.

And lastly, King Controls – a provider of portable satellite products designed to be lightweight and self-contained, and download TV like home – was a  nominee for Best in Class Midsize Manufacturing Company in the 2014 Manufacturing Awards, which are presented by Minnesota Business Magazine to recognize overall excellence in the Minnesota manufacturing industry.

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