Technologies, automation especially, is feared by many to be trucking job-killer, but Cindy Clark, Dealer Principal – Calgary, Sterling Western Star, says that technologies will not eliminate the role of the driver, but make it better and broaden the appeal of working in the trucking industry.
“Some people say automation will kill 8 million jobs, but this is not the truth—its not going to happen at all; it will afford more people access to driving,” says Clark. “Technologies geared toward improving safety and security—they remove stress for the driver. It allows people of various skill levels to get into it. ‘It won’t take jobs’ is the message coming from the top people in Daimler [Trucks North America].
Daimler is currently engineering solutions to the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 and the Freightliner Inspiration Truck automated trucks. The autopilot system which drives the automation is described as “the perfect companion” to the driver.
“Automation to this degree won’t be available for nearly a decade,” says Clark, referring to a comment made by Martin Daum, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG. Daimler Trucks & Buses, DTNA when addressing the Western Star Dealer group in Quebec City on February 8, 2017. “Not that the technology won’t be moved forward but the cost and needs for full implementation – manufacturing, tooling, policy and laws, are the reason for the “autonomous” vehicle to be about a full decade out,” continues Clark. “DTNA as a component of Daimler/Mercedes has been at the forefront of this technology, and almost all manufacturers have it implemented in vehicles in some matter.”
Semi-autonomous technologies available today include DTNA’s Active Brake Assist 4.0 tracks the distance from the front of the truck to other vehicles in its path using bumper mounted radar. Active Brake Assist emits an audible, visual, and haptic warning before partially or fully braking.
Other safety features include Adaptive Cruise Control, which adjusts the cruising speed by maintaining a safe following distance from other vehicles and Lane Departure Warning, which warns the driver through the use of a forward-facing camera that detects lane markers when a vehicle crosses over the lane.
As well, through the use of telematics, DTNA has created the Detroit Connect Virtual Technician, which allows fleet managers and owner-operators to know within minutes when their vehicles experience fault codes.
“All these technologies will help eliminate barriers to people who want a good career, but think they can’t be a truck driver,” says Clark. Clark’s family used to run some gravel trucks and had founded a repair shop before starting the dealership.
“Also, people don’t understand how much the trucking lifestyle has changed. Long haul isn’t what it used to be. The way distribution is set up—as a truck driver—you can go home at the end of the day,” says Clark.
Plus, trucking is more than just driving. You can enter the trucking industry with little training, get certificates, and move up. There is so much you can do—management, dispatch, HR, IT, teaching.”
Clark describes herself as being born into trucking, but it didn’t limit her. She got a degree in economics and started her own parts store before buying out her parents dealership, of which she has been the principal for 10 years. She is also active in efforts to debunk myths about the trucking industry.
Clark will be speaking at the upcoming Western Women with Drive Leadership Conference in Calgary, Alberta, May 10. “Ten years ago, we weren’t talking about women in trucking. Its an evolution. Women present an untapped labour opportunity for the trucking industry and we have to show them that there are many opportunities in trucking,” says Clark. “Women bring a lot of value to the industry. Female drivers tend to really know their equipment. I would like to see more women in sales. Technology, and an honest image of the trucking industry, will drive them—and others—there.”