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Big Rigs Go High Tech

Soulskill posted more than 6 years ago | from the super-highway-information dept.

Transportation 288

pottercw writes "Trucking may not seem like a high-tech industry to the casual observer, but major carriers are starting to adopt an array of emerging technologies to combat rising fuel costs, tighter regulation and fierce competition. The technologies include systems that monitor and communicate vehicle conditions and performance, enhanced GPSs that keep tabs on tractors and trailers, and safety systems which issue warnings or even take action to help drivers avoid an accident — all working in real time. Computerworld has a cool mouseover diagram highlighting some of the gadgets we're beginning to see on high-tech trucks."

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You cannot let this article stay posted! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23513558)

Once everyone finds out that the Semi Trucks drive themselves, the truckers' union will overthrow society!

Re:You cannot let this article stay posted! (1, Funny)

eln (21727) | more than 6 years ago | (#23513592)

Nah, they'll just find some other scam like bootlegging Beanie Babies.

Time for Railroads to make a comeback (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23514076)

That's because rail travel is the most energy-efficient we have, with respect to transporting massive amounts of materials across land. Such a comeback would require double-tracks between all pairs of destinations. And regular reliable schedules, heh.

Re:Time for Railroads to make a comeback (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 6 years ago | (#23514380)

If rail is so efficient, how come the price is the same for a rail trip from Boston to DC as it is for a commuter flight for the same trip?

Re:Time for Railroads to make a comeback (4, Insightful)

Tanktalus (794810) | more than 6 years ago | (#23514444)

Transporting 250lbs of flesh and 50lbs of luggage doesn't really show a train's ability to pull cargo cheaply since that 300lbs of cargo needs to be in a multi-ton box car with many niceties (food, water, sleeping area, toilet, possibly shower).

Try comparing costs of carrying 100s of tons of cargo (such as grain, oil, furniture, vehicles) where the overhead of the train is a smaller percentage.

Try even comparing the cost to the environment: both the air (burned fuel) and, for comparing with "Big Rigs" (to stay loosely on topic) the damage caused to the roadways (vs damage caused to railways) for the same load.

I've been hoping for more railways for years...

Re:You cannot let this article stay posted! (0, Offtopic)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 6 years ago | (#23513958)

The California prison guards will beat' em to it [signonsandiego.com] .

Who says truckies are stupid? (5, Insightful)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 6 years ago | (#23514156)

Once everyone finds out that the Semi Trucks drive themselves...

Most people who have only ever driven cars fail to appreciate that driving heavy trucks is actually quite a demanding job, and not one for dummies. Those rigs are expensive, and no factor that saves fuel or wear and tear can be neglected. It may be popular to label truckies as ignorant yokels, but it is a fact that they need to be quite technically astute. For instance, tyre wear alone is a huge factor when you consider the cost of replacing over 40 tyres on a multi-combination rig.

As an aside, this reminds me of one time back in my trucking days, some idiot tried to steal my rig. He might have thought he was a shit-hot car driver, but couldn't even muster the coordination required to get the crash box into gear. He was still struggling with it when the police arrived... :-)

Re:Who says truckies are stupid? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23514248)

Woooosh...

Obviously you are not a fan of The Simpsons.

Big Red (5, Funny)

Wrexs0ul (515885) | more than 6 years ago | (#23513570)

Slashdot really needs to get with the times. The Navitron Autodrive System [wikipedia.org] is nearly ten year-old news, though remains a little known secret known to many truckers falling asleep at the wheel.

If only it could have saved poor Red from beef poisoning at Sirloin A Lot, sadly that feature was still in beta.

-Matt

viva Homer!

Re:Big Red (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23513652)

Slashdot really needs to get with the times. The Navitron Autodrive System [wikipedia.org] is nearly ten year-old news,
yeah, but what are YOU gonna do about it?

Re:Big Red (2, Funny)

sporkme (983186) | more than 6 years ago | (#23514132)

My father was in charge of international maintenance for Celadon trucking for several years, ending something like ten years ago. Certain incidents involving roadway accidents fell under his purview, including bridge entrapment (remotely authorize the release of air pressure from tires), accidents suspected to be caused by equipment failure, and one particular snarl that required his travel to the accident scene:

This predates graphical GPS navigation systems, but efforts had been made in this direction to facilitate the on time arrival of loads. Someone would have to travel the route in advance, marking significant coordinates and noting instructions to be carried out as they are reached. One note was made, "turn left at the railroad tracks."

One driver made the judgment that this meant that he should actually steer his rig onto the railroad tracks. He succeeded. Fortunately, a passing motorist called the police, who contacted the rail authorities who stopped the trains. It cost the company significantly in delayed rail freight costs and such, and the driver was found to be heavily influenced by drugs.

Re:Big Red (5, Informative)

slashtivus (1162793) | more than 6 years ago | (#23513682)

My last neighbor (still keep in touch) was a big rig driver. He would park the corporate truck out by our small apartment complex sometimes, and let me have a look from the driver's seat. I was amazed at all of the controls and dials for every little thing: 4 exhaust temp sensors can tell you health of engine or proper gear, axle temps + oil levels, wheel pressures etc etc. This was all recorded and uploaded to corp HQ as well. Little things add up to big money when you run a trucking company, and it is really worth the little extra to purchase the extra sensors and avoid wasted fuel and prevent unneeded repairs when maintenance would do. This was 10 years ago when fuel was cheaper. Old news.

Re:Big Red (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 6 years ago | (#23513826)

Yes, but, will any of these advances help you find hookers or some meth, to help on those LONG hauls...

:-)

Well.....at least the hookers, not everyone does drugs.

Re:Big Red (3, Informative)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 6 years ago | (#23513984)

In trucker jargon the "hookers" are known as "Lot Lizards", you insensitive clod!

Re:Big Red (4, Funny)

Oktober Sunset (838224) | more than 6 years ago | (#23514172)

They solved that years ago with CB radio...

I'm heading west, and I'm looking for a whore!

Re:Big Red (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23513832)

did he also let you suck him off?

Re:Big Red (1)

lgw (121541) | more than 6 years ago | (#23513972)

I just hope that for the "adaptive cruise control" mentioned in TFA, trucker usage drives this technology to somehting better that we have today. Today's systems seem to go into "ZOMG I GONNA DIE" mode when ever you're on a freeway offramp or otherwise catch a safety railing in the radar while turning.

Similarly, lane departure warning doesn't work today when you'd really like it too, like when it's raining very heavily and it's hard to see the stripes on the road.

Re:Big Red (4, Interesting)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 6 years ago | (#23514112)

Lane departure is being done all wrong. We need to get the various road authorities to start mixing something like this [hitachi.co.jp] into the paint that they paint the lines with. Then vehicles could use RFID readers to no only know when they are departing a lane, but they could use this instead of GPS to identify where they are.

Re:Big Red (1)

Gertlex (722812) | more than 6 years ago | (#23514144)

Do we even want to know what happened to your other neighbors?

I'm not implying anything, oh no, definitely not. :)

Re:Big Red (1)

neoform (551705) | more than 6 years ago | (#23513912)

Haha, I clicked this story just to post that. You beat me to it ;)

Re:Big Red (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23514128)

I don't want anything stopping what happened near chicago the past week, a semi loaded with oreos crashed and sent those lovely cookies all over the road, i have like a basket full of em!

Re:Big Red (3, Insightful)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 6 years ago | (#23514408)

If it didn't crash into a Milk truck, it isn't news.

Re:Big Red (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23514208)

Slashdot is powered by your submissions, so you should have sent that in 10 years ago.

inefficiency of driving too fast (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23513580)

Many truckers are so blasé about safety that they are somewhat vilified by most other people. If they focused on driving under the speed limit (which is set too high for them to be able to stop in time for an emergency) people might think better of them and they would save diesel fuel. Trucking business owners can't get their drivers to drive at reasonable speeds.

Am I the only one... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23513584)

Who read the title and thought "OH NO, A SEQUEL!?"

Re:Am I the only one... (1)

Mesa MIke (1193721) | more than 6 years ago | (#23513846)

You mean, a sequel to this [imdb.com] ?

Re:Am I the only one... (1)

sporkme (983186) | more than 6 years ago | (#23514180)

You can't beat me on the grade!!!

"I play meat."
"You play meat?"
"That's sick man, sick!"


Spielberg's finest hour.

Fuel Efficiency (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23513590)

Does this help with the fact that a lot of stuff can be shipped more efficiently by train?

Re:Fuel Efficiency (5, Interesting)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 6 years ago | (#23513676)

No... and it doesn't help the transportation industry one bit that transportation costs are approaching a threshold where locally produced goods can compete.

For generations, moving goods around has been treated as nothing but a small marginal cost. This means we have been able to take for granted the origin of goods.

Of course the fact is, margins still allow us to take it for granted, and they still would, even with a doubling of the current prices of fuel. Fuel does not yet dominate the cost of transportation, and the cost of transportation does not yet dominate the the cost of agricultural commodities.

But, don't listen to me. Listen to the voices that really want you to be angry about fuel prices. Maybe there really is some conspiracy driving up the prices (while staying hidden within the competitive, transparent marketplace where the value is established, and where the prices can only be explained by investor behavior, since the only other factors of supply, demand, and reserves do not explain it.)

Oh, that's scarier than any boogeyman can possibly be: what if the market really does bear $136/bbl crude, without any nefarious or criminal interference in the market?

Well, it's the only commodity that has a scoreboard on every corner, and the only one where people honestly expect me to get upset about it, to make it a priority.

Tell you what: When fuel reaches 1% of my annual budget, I'll give it a line item. When fuel reaches a level that it is a significant marginal cost in delivering goods to retail marketplaces, I'll buy locally produced goods. Local economy will be happy. /me stands by for the screams about cartels and oil company profits.

If you have experience in commodities or degrees in economics, you might be able to persade me.

I've been called clueless for my opinions. I do happen to know a thing or two about the transportation business, particularly trucking, particularly in the ag sector.

Re:Fuel Efficiency (3, Insightful)

outcast36 (696132) | more than 6 years ago | (#23513816)

fuel isn't 1% of your budget? I'm impressed. If you have to fill up your tank once a week, then you're spending at least $40. This is a weekly income of $4K, or over $200K/annually. I consider myself a conservative driver. I hate cars and I hate traffic, but between my wife & I, fuel costs are far above 1% and even approaching 5%.

Re:Fuel Efficiency (2, Insightful)

RexRhino (769423) | more than 6 years ago | (#23513926)

Some of us live in these places called cities, where we can walk to places, and if that is too far we can take a bus or subway for next to nothing. :)

I don't know about the guy who posted the original message, but many people in cities don't even own cars. I own a car, but I only use it when I want to move furniture or buy a lot of groceries... my gas expenditure is nowhere near 1%.

1% is low for the suburbanite / rural folk, but not for the urbanite.

Re:Fuel Efficiency (1)

fat_mike (71855) | more than 6 years ago | (#23514446)

I live in a "city" and I don't have public transportation. I stressed for 10 months trying to decide whether to buy a house in a nice place or one in an okay place closer to work because of gas prices. I decided on the latter.

Have you actually looked at a map and seen just how big this country is? Have you seen how spread out cities that aren't situated in areas where they have no land to expand to are?

I almost forgot :)

Re:Fuel Efficiency (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 6 years ago | (#23513932)

> "fuel isn't 1% of your budget? I'm impressed. If you have to fill up your tank once a week, then you're spending at least $40. This is a weekly income of $4K, or over $200K/annually. I consider myself a conservative driver. I hate cars and I hate traffic, but between my wife & I, fuel costs are far above 1% and even approaching 5%."

Do you live a LONG way from work? Do you drive something that gets bad gas mileage?

I'm not sure the distance to work..but, with not much traffic except in one area..takes me about 22 min to work. I fill up about once every 1.5 weeks or so..depending on how heavy a foot I have in the turbo. It costs about $30-$33 to fill up I think....I really don't look at the pump very often. So, I basically spend about $90/mo on gas. That's less than 1% of my salary yes....

My car gets roughly 23 mpg in the city..I've been riding my motorcycle a lot now that the weather is nice...it gets abotu 33-34mpg (big engine, Yamaha Roadliner)....

Man...I have the feeling that SUV resale prices are gonna get pretty much nil soon....what is trade in on one of those going for these days?

Re:Fuel Efficiency (2, Insightful)

himurabattousai (985656) | more than 6 years ago | (#23514166)

fuel isn't 1% of your budget? I'm impressed. If you have to fill up your tank once a week, then you're spending at least $40. This is a weekly income of $4K, or over $200K/annually.

I consider myself a conservative driver. I hate cars and I hate traffic, but between my wife & I, fuel costs are far above 1% and even approaching 5%.
I only wish I had the money to where less than one percent was for gas. In my case, it's almost ten percent, and that's with a car that gets better than 30 mpg city (a '96 Saturn--1.9L I-4 w/5 a speed gearbox). Granted, I don't make much money, but unless you get obscene gas mileage, you'd have to pull down six digits to spend less than one percent of that on gas.

I'd guess that the vast majority of households are at least 5 percent of income to fuel. Figure that based on average yearly fuel costs on the following minimums: two fill-ups per month at 50 dollars (12 gallons E to F) to 70 dollars a visit (17 gallons E to F), plus an extra two visits because there are four weeks extra spread over twelve months, for a yearly total of 1300 to 1800 dollars at current prices. That's just for one typical (Accord, Camry, etc) car, and before taxes are taken out. If taxes suck away a third of your income before you see it, then that almost doubles your percentage of income for fuel.

Thank the piss-poor US dollar, inflation, needless war in Iraq, greedy oil execs, or whatever else suits your fancy. The 1920's will look like a cakewalk compared to what awaits us on our current course, and those of us who still have money will wish they could only spend a handful of percent of it on gas.

Re:Fuel Efficiency (1)

Oktober Sunset (838224) | more than 6 years ago | (#23514184)

Your weekly budget is the same as your income? Don't you have such a thing as savings?

Re:Fuel Efficiency (1)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 6 years ago | (#23514292)

>If you have to fill up your tank once a week

I don't. I made choices in life in order to be less sensitive to the price of gas. You could do the same.

5% eh? So, no doubt, still not your biggest worry.

Re:Fuel Efficiency (4, Insightful)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 6 years ago | (#23513820)

Transportation is already factored into about 24% of the economy. From the manufacture of cars, planes, etc., to the cost of moving people and goods, fuel for police cars and fire trucks, fuel for the construction equipment that paves the roads, removes the snow, delivers mail and packages, runs the trucks that install and maintain your internet access, etc. So, unless you're not paying taxes, not buying anything, not eating, never sending or receiving mail, or surfing the net, you're already paying more than 1% of your income, either directly or indirectly, in diesel and gasoline.

Re:Fuel Efficiency (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23513844)

When fuel reaches 1% of my annual budget, I'll give it a line item.
Pretentious asshole. Fuel is already 10% or more of most Americans' budget. Every tick higher means working is less effective, because even if any recreational fuel use is excluded the cost of showing up every day is on the rise, and that means less money in citizens' pockets. So even before you start insisting that despite fuel costs for transporting goods having more than doubled in the past year, the cost of goods isn't really going to go up: people have less money to spend on goods regardless of where they came from. But you wouldn't have any concern for that, your house on the hill is far enough away from the cries of the peasants, that you don't need to be bothered with trivia like the lifeblood of the economy drying up (by becoming scarce) and leaving the middle class to fend for themselves.

Re:Fuel Efficiency (1)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 6 years ago | (#23514314)

>Pretentious asshole.

I *will* take the benefit of choices I make in life.

I *will not* read anything you have to say, after you go to the level of personal insult.
Whatever you wrote, went away, after "asshole."

I *never* sink to this level, and I *will not* engage in dialogue with anyone who does.

I don't understand. (3, Insightful)

freenix (1294222) | more than 6 years ago | (#23513856)

How can locally produced goods compete with the shipped in versions? Raw materials have to be shipped in, even in agriculture where fertilizer and fuel are real costs. My impression was that goods from China were inexpensive because they had a large supply of very cheap and poorly treated labor. Just about everyone now uses material from there if they bother making anything. What is left of US and Western manufacturing? If you know so much about Ag shipping, can you tell me why so much cheap food at the grocery store now comes from China?

What competition do you see in the oil market after the merger of Exxon and Mobil? They closed half of their stations, major refineries and fired plenty of people so they could tighten up the market. Their "Project for the New American Century" has been a disaster for the rest of us and may even bite them in the ass when the US economy collapses under the cost of the Iraq war failure, Iran refusing to sell oil in dollars and persistent problems in Afghanistan. Sooner or later our weakened prestige and currency will ruin their string of "best year ever" profits.

I don't have a fancy degree in Economics nor do I trade commodities but the ruin of the US economy is easy to see. Excuse me while I drive my H2 to pick up another load of Chinese stuff at Walmart.

Re:Fuel Efficiency (2, Interesting)

imboboage0 (876812) | more than 6 years ago | (#23514170)

Disregarding everything else you said (I just don't feel like typing =] )...

When fuel reaches 1% of my annual budget, I'll give it a line item.

I just graduated from high school yesterday. I don't exactly make bank, but it's not minimum wage by a longshot. However, just in fuel to get to school, work, and home, i was spending up to 40% of my income. Even if I were just going to work, it would be nearly 30% of my income.

I think the price of fuel hits harder for those in the lower classes, but I'm not an expert so take it with a grain of salt.

Re:Fuel Efficiency (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 6 years ago | (#23514254)

The cost of almost all other commodities is driven by the cost of energy! It takes energy to mine and refine metals, it takes energy to fertilize, harvest, and transport grains, etc. Of course there has not been a huge move in the cost of energy worldwide, it is mostly the devaluation of the dollar increasing the cost of oil for US consumers, the cost in Europe for instance hasn't significantly risen due to the strength of the euro vs the dollar.

Huge costs lead to early adoption (4, Insightful)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 6 years ago | (#23513608)

Big rig trucks are very expensive to operate. Time is money. As a result, big rig operators have always been looking for anything that can help them improve efficiency a performance and this makes them into early adopters.

Communications (CB radios and trunked radio) have always been associated with truckers.

Big rigs were also the first to use significant engine management. J1939 (one of first uses of CAN) was originally done for big rigs.

Emmisions. (1)

westbake (1275576) | more than 6 years ago | (#23513870)

I wish they would clean up their emissions. Too bad there's no financial incentive or laws to force that.

Rig emmissions are very low (4, Informative)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 6 years ago | (#23513934)

if you measure them on a per pound of cargo basis. Way, way better than any car carrying a few pounds of cargo.

If you look at the emissions associated with the delivery of a new TV, most of it is in the last leg from the store to the buyer's home. Trucking 500 TVs across the state using a big rig produces less emissions per TV than that last ride home.

Re:Rig emmissions are very low (5, Insightful)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 6 years ago | (#23513990)

And yet the emissions are still way, way worse than they would be for transport by rail.

Balance that (1, Insightful)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 6 years ago | (#23514258)

With the impact of installing a rail link to every town and to every industrial area. Ultimately trucking is needed for some flexibility.

Rail sure is way better where it can be used.

Re:Rig emmissions are very low (2, Informative)

epseps (39675) | more than 6 years ago | (#23514450)

Rails are great but they cover a limited area. Some trucking companies integrate rails and road pretty well with trailers just being transported by rail and then picked up by cab at the most convenient location.

But that requires very precise dispatching and monitoring, so only the biggest companies with the best inventory systems can handle. Hopefully with technology getting cheaper more companies will do this and more geeks will get jobs in the freight industry running those systems.

Re:Emmisions. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23513942)

Do you have any idea what you are talking about.
The transportation is very regulated emission wise.
The diesel fuel now has less particulate count than gas does. And No, I will not give any cites. Do some fucking research for yourself. Most fines for bad exhaust runs in the 10's of thousands.

Re:Emmisions. (4, Informative)

LoRdTAW (99712) | more than 6 years ago | (#23514346)

They have been emissions laws in place for Diesel engines for a long time already. The EPA 2007 emissions were a huge step forward from the EPA 2002 emissions in using a diesel particulate filter DPF to filter out the soot and aggressive exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) to reduce NOx emissions.

My beef with the EPA and the government is how they handled the enforcement of the 2007 emissions law. In Europe they have the Euro emissions standard for diesel engines and they are currently at Euro 5. But that does not mean that truck makers must only offer Euro 5 engines to its customers. See the EU was smart and rather then force everyone to switch they said you can still buy Euro 4 and 3 engines but you pay higher registration fees and I believe even higher road usage taxes (can anyone clarify?) for the Euro 3 and 4 engines.

In the USA the EPA forced all the engine makers and truck makers to only offer 2007 emissions rated engines in all trucks made after October 2007. Now the 2007 rated engines add another six to eight thousand dollars to a truck so guess what happened? Thats right, in 2006 trucking companies scrambled to purchase pre-2007 trucks not only because they were cheaper but the reliability of 2007 engines was unknown and untrusted. So now you have plenty of 2006 sales but sales were dead in 2007 threatening truck makers here in the states. If the EPA did what the EU did they would have eased the pain in transitioning and we would have more cleaner trucks on the road.

Now just wait till EPA 2010 when we will most likely combine the 2007 DPF and EGR systems with a selective catalytic reduction (SCR) system. Also Europe will combine a DPF system with their Euro 5 SCR/EGR system for Euro 6 emissions. At that point diesel engines will be cleaner than gasoline engines.

   

Re:Huge costs lead to early adoption (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 6 years ago | (#23513968)

"Big rig trucks are very expensive to operate. Time is money. As a result, big rig operators have always been looking for anything that can help them improve efficiency a performance and this makes them into early adopters. Communications (CB radios and trunked radio) have always been associated with truckers."

A year or two ago..for fun (and for talking to other car club members when on a run), I got a CB radio and put it in the car. It is fun on the odd long trip I take...to talk with the truckers, and trade 'smokey' reports. I find that by doing this...I often know where the speed traps are LONG before my radar detector goes off.

That and when riding alone, is kinda fun to just be able to talk to random people.

Very true (4, Interesting)

epseps (39675) | more than 6 years ago | (#23514426)

I used to be a truck driver before I got into Unix Administration (long story but backing up is now a lot safer). When I left the profession in 1999 the truck stops were just putting rj11 jacks for dial up in the trucker section of the restaurants...Not exactly fast but computers had not hit the real of being personal communication yet....which truckers adopt pretty fast. In 1995 I used to feel like a big shot for walking around with a cell phone when I was among non-truckers but truck drivers already had them and owner-operators began to depend upon them immediatly.

But back then fuel was relatively cheap and the only modifications we had on our engines were a governor that restricted top speed (mine was annoyingly set at 68). Now I hardly recognise the cab of a modern truck ...I had gauges that used dials and not a single LCD was present and I relied soley on mirror placement and use to avoid accidents.

Oh, and laminated maps. That was the top technology for finding my way around Houston.

Technology? Where!? (0, Troll)

SeeSp0tRun (1270464) | more than 6 years ago | (#23513622)

What's next Slashdot... are you going to tell me NASCAR is complicated too?

Re:Technology? Where!? (1)

Grimmreaper74 (1014291) | more than 6 years ago | (#23514508)

That's funny, I hate nascar too!!! Dumb redneck bastards driving in a circle and getting paid 7 digits to do it, WTF?

I'm a believer in the railroads. (0, Flamebait)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 6 years ago | (#23513624)

I don't care for long haul trucking. Especially those damn double trailers. It's insane! Like most accidents the cause is the driver. Will all these gadgets keep him awake? Automated rail is the only way. I just cannot imagine riding your hog, and getting smacked by that goddamn retread coming apart in front of you. It's only a little bit better than some guy leaking his load of gravel on the interstate.

Re:I'm a believer in the railroads. (1)

BiggerIsBetter (682164) | more than 6 years ago | (#23513778)

It's only a little bit better than some guy leaking his load of gravel on the interstate.
I've always been partial to the effluent spillage from stock trucks. It's dirty, it stinks, AND it can tip you off mid-corner.

Re:I'm a believer in the railroads. (0, Flamebait)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 6 years ago | (#23513876)

Parent a bit heavy-handed but I think the troll mod is unfair since the article romanticizes long-haul trucking [cmt.com] .

Truckin' is still a dirty and unsafe business [amren.com] . BTW, the "retread" parent is referring to is the practice of dremelling new grooves into balding tires(which is legal if the tire was designed for it, but is often done unsafely and illegally, like much truck maintenance).

Re:I'm a believer in the railroads. (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 6 years ago | (#23513970)

No, actually retreading is the recapping of an old carcass with a new tread. They might be safe, but not enough for my tastes and experience.

Re:I'm a believer in the railroads. (1)

himurabattousai (985656) | more than 6 years ago | (#23514060)

So, you've had to dodge steel-belted at 60+, too? That is some scary-ass shit, regardless of what you're driving.

The strange thing is that most truck tread carcasses I see appear to have plenty of tread on them. My guess is that, since rubber ages, it's the underlying rubber, and not the tread, that's unsafe. Putting a new tread on a degraded tire is like using masking tape to hold on an outisde mirror.

Re:I'm a believer in the railroads. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23513992)

Wrong, retreads are recaps ie the old tread is removed from the tire casing and new tread (strip of rubber)is added. The glue that hold the cap gets hot
from under inflation, heavy loads , hot days. Most of the time retreads are put on trailers. If you look closely at the tire you can see the seam.

fuel costs still not high enough priority (3, Insightful)

bzipitidoo (647217) | more than 6 years ago | (#23513668)

Combat rising fuel costs? They aren't serious, yet. Otherwise, we'd be moving everything we could via railroad, not road. We'd see a lot more aerodynamics. It'd be so easy to make a few small aerodynamic changes to the trailers. That's seriously low hanging fruit, and it's been almost entirely ignored. As it is, while many of the tractors aren't too bad, the average truck trailer has all the aerodynamics of a brick. We'd also see lighter trailers with more aluminum and composite carbon fiber in them, more efficient engines, and better tires.

Re:fuel costs still not high enough priority (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 6 years ago | (#23513782)

rail does not go all over the place and trucks are needed for delivering goods locally.

Re:fuel costs still not high enough priority (1)

QBasicer (781745) | more than 6 years ago | (#23513868)

Well, at least not anymore. A lot of places have had their rails taken up in the late 80s, early 90s in Canada. I personally think rail should be the choice for long hauls, and using trucks for local delivery. I've always preferred taking a train over taking a bus, however since they took up the tracks to my university town, I have no choice.

Re:fuel costs still not high enough priority (1)

GeigerBC (1056332) | more than 6 years ago | (#23513892)

Mod GP up. He's so correct with "Otherwise, we'd be moving everything we could via railroad, not road." You realize how many long-haul truckers there are in the States? More than is needed. Most of these could be moved to rail which is much more energy efficient. I agree that you would still need trucks for local and short deliveries, but so much of the industry is long haul or multi-state trucking. They have rail cars that you can just pick up the trailer off the rail car and hook it right up to the truck for the first few miles to the rail yard and the last few miles from the rail yard. At least that's my understanding of it.

Re:fuel costs still not high enough priority (1)

Squalish (542159) | more than 6 years ago | (#23514006)

"You know how many long haul truckers there are in the States?"

is a completely different statement from

"You know how much long haul trucking there is in the States?"

The addendum "Most of these could be moved to rail which is much more energy efficient" only applies to one.

A 100 car freight train is far less labor intensive than 100 semis.

Re:fuel costs still not high enough priority (2, Insightful)

winwar (114053) | more than 6 years ago | (#23514110)

"Most of these could be moved to rail which is much more energy efficient."

Companies care about cost and time. If it were cheaper and faster to ship via rail they would. It isn't, so they don't. Except for large bulky shipments.

"I agree that you would still need trucks for local and short deliveries, but so much of the industry is long haul or multi-state trucking."

And you would have the same amount of drivers. Except that you can pay the local ones less.... Trucks are far more convenient than rail lines. That's worth increased cost to many.

"They have rail cars that you can just pick up the trailer off the rail car and hook it right up to the truck for the first few miles to the rail yard and the last few miles from the rail yard."

Sure, if you don't want your cargo in a timely manner. I've worked in a warehouse-containers via rail are slow. It's quicker to ship cargo from LA to Seattle via truck.

In the end, efficiency is only important to companies if it reduces cost.

Re:fuel costs still not high enough priority (1)

Cyno01 (573917) | more than 6 years ago | (#23513928)

True, but that doesnt change the fact that most of the goods around the country USED to be carried by rail, untill the automotive companies bought up the rail companies and began to ship everything with the trucks they built.

Re:fuel costs still not high enough priority (1)

winwar (114053) | more than 6 years ago | (#23514062)

"True, but that doesnt change the fact that most of the goods around the country USED to be carried by rail, untill the automotive companies bought up the rail companies and began to ship everything with the trucks they built."

Automotive companies didn't buy up rail carriers.

We built this great transportation system (highways) that allowed people to live everywhere and get goods from anywhere. Railroads couldn't keep up. Trucks are more useful. It will take far greater prices and much time to change this.

I suspect that most goods used to be created and used locally. Which worked great when we were mostly farmers.

Re:fuel costs still not high enough priority (1)

belmolis (702863) | more than 6 years ago | (#23514370)

Yes, but the interstate highway system is only cheaper than railroads for most goods because it is so heavily subsidized by the federal and state governments.

Re:fuel costs still not high enough priority (1)

Cyno01 (573917) | more than 6 years ago | (#23514392)

No, the highway system was also pushed by the auto makers and as a public works project and as an integral part of national defense. Link [wikipedia.org] .

Re:fuel costs still not high enough priority (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23513904)

There also isn't nearly enough capacity on the rails, A customer of mine is paying a 30% premium for road over rail because there aren't enough reefer cars. Even with the rail lines that were removed, you can still move more stuff at a time over the road.

Re:fuel costs still not high enough priority (3, Insightful)

Squalish (542159) | more than 6 years ago | (#23514094)

That's because since WW2, we've spent a hundred billion dollars a year constructing, expanding, and maintaining the roads, and ten million dollars a year tearing up rails so that people wouldn't trip over them.

Re:fuel costs still not high enough priority (5, Informative)

LoRdTAW (99712) | more than 6 years ago | (#23514492)

We'd see a lot more aerodynamics.

Aero? Peterbilt 378, Kenworth T2000, International Prostar, Freightliner Century/Colombia/Cascadia, Mack Vision. And more are to follow.

It'd be so easy to make a few small aerodynamic changes to the trailers. That's seriously low hanging fruit, and it's been almost entirely ignored.

Aero Trailers are not always feasible in the eyes of the trucking industry for one simple reason: weight. Most tractors today have proper wind deflectors on top to allow to the air to deflect around the trailer reducing drag. Side skirts have been tried since the 70's but did not yield enough of an increase in fuel savings to warrant their cost or added weight.

We'd also see lighter trailers with more aluminum and composite carbon fiber in them

Trailers are already as light as possible and are full of composite materials and aluminum, you just haven't bothered to look. Aluminum is popular in flatbed trailers that can be upward of 100% aluminum and many trailers are of a mixed construction of both aluminum and steel. Aluminum frames used to be popular in trucks of the 70's. But after a few years of running on roads that are salted in the winter, everyone learned real fast that aluminum was a poor material for frames. Carbon fiber isn't a material your going to find on a truck as it has no desirable properties other then low weight.

more efficient engines

Diesel engines have for years been very efficient. The average today is about 6-6.5 MPG for tractor trailers. Older diesels that were mechanical could also yield similar numbers but were very dirty (but fun and simple to maintain and work on). EPA 2007 and the looming EPA 2010 has created a whole new school of diesel design and many companies are about to or are going to release some real seriously high tech engines. Compacted graphite iron, turbo compounding, ingenious heat management, acoustic tuning, over head cams and integrated engine brakes is whats in the mix. International's MaXXForce, Detroit Diesel's DD15, and Paccar's MX engine are some of the most technologically advanced engines out there. They are ready to be deployed soon here in the USA and will meet EPA 2010 emissions which will make gasoline engine look filthy.

and better tires.

Ever hear of super singles? They are wide base tires that replace the dual tires found on both drive and trailer axles. They have less friction than a set of dual tires and can bring about a noticeable and beneficial savings in fuel economy. They are also lighter which allows the truck to carry more fright which increases efficiency. Adoption has been pretty good but safety is a bit of a concern as with duals if one tire blows the other can support the weight of the axle so the truck can be safely stopped. Cost is also an issue and they aren't useful outside of LTL, long haul and bulk haul. Vocational work still demands dual tires for the high weights and abuse involved.

This isn't new (2, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 6 years ago | (#23513728)

Most of this stuff has been on trucks for ten years. Eaton's VORAD anti-collision radar goes back further than that. But now, everybody with more than one rig has some kind of tracking system.

Anti-collision (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 6 years ago | (#23513762)

Warning: You are about to experience a collision. Now applying automated force feedback controls and intelligent brake assistance on a large vehicle hauling an unpredictable, possibly liquid or poorly secured load to avoid detected hazard.

Problem?

Re:Anti-collision (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23514206)

Maybe. As big a problem as the driver doing it himself? Maybe, maybe not. What about if you have half a brain when you're engineering this thing and figure out some ways to mitigate it?

It needn't even be integrated into braking/steering/etc. For anti-collision, I'd imagine that knowing is half the battle.

Re:Anti-collision (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 6 years ago | (#23514228)

Warning: You are about to experience a collision. Now applying automated force feedback controls and intelligent brake assistance on a large vehicle hauling an unpredictable, possibly liquid or poorly secured load to avoid detected hazard.

Problem?

"Bridge out" error. (R)etry, (A)bort, (I)gnore?

Thanks but I'd rather have my shipments delivered by rickshaw.

What will the future bring? (4, Funny)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 6 years ago | (#23513790)

Maybe some day, hundreds of truckloads of shipments will be piloted by one (maybe two) people. Who knows, maybe there will be just one engine for a hundred containers, and it will be smart enough to generate energy very efficiently, regulate it's own speed, and react to hazards. Maybe they will even make special thoroughfares criss-crossing the nation, on which these super-movers of the future will ride on... The future is bright indeed! I just have one question: what might we call them?

Train (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 6 years ago | (#23514046)

A train? Welcome to the 19th century. James Watt will be proud.

Re:Train (2, Funny)

bjackson1 (953136) | more than 6 years ago | (#23514264)

A train? Welcome to the 19th century. James Watt will be proud.
Wooosh!

Re:What will the future bring? (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 6 years ago | (#23514232)

Trains are, indeed, great for great big bulk things (notice how you sometimes see freight trains carrying coal and gravel and timber and such), but for actually delivering things the last mile (or the first) it's a lot trickier. Being able to go over surface roads buys you a lot of flexibility, too - routing, pickup dates and times, things like that.

But it's not as if rail isn't already in the middle of a comeback and spending a billion dollars a year or so on new infrastructure. (Freight, that is, of course; people-rail is not so fortunate).

Re:What will the future bring? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23514236)

If you live in the Northern Territory of Australia they call that a B6 ( a Prime mover with 6 trailers ) and they don't need special tracks , they just use normal roads, just keep out of their way (they do take some distance to come to a stop).

Re:What will the future bring? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23514486)

A train isn't going to dock at your distribution warehouse or make deliveries to all your branches.

trucks are still and will always be needed.

Trucking technology is extremely sophisticated (4, Insightful)

Brett Buck (811747) | more than 6 years ago | (#23513860)

The summary underestimates the technology development in the trucking industry. Since at least the early 70's oil crisis, no effort has been spared to wheedle out ever last cent per lb-mile. The engine controls are exceptionally sophisticated and the scheduling/routing software is similarly complex. This is not a bunch of stereotypical yokels. Most people here would go broke if they tried to do it.

        While we are at it, a lot of people might be surprised how sophisticated trains and train operations are - modern locomotives were the prototypes of Prius' and othe hybrids, complete with regenerative braking.

          Brett

Reducing Oil Costs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23513884)


High tech isn't just digital. Plenty of other folks out there are finding ways to save on overall oil usage. Filters that can extend the time between oil changes can save thousands for long haul, and extended operation vehicles.

http://www.ctifilters.com/

Can all this tech (0)

hansoloaf (668609) | more than 6 years ago | (#23513900)

Can all this tech stuff prevent truckers from swinging in front of me in the left lane when there's no one behind me for miles?
And then they would proceed to take forever to pass the slower vehicle and move back in the right lane so I can finally move on.

hmm another no sh#t sherlock moment (0, Troll)

TheDreadedGMan (1122791) | more than 6 years ago | (#23513930)

Trucks high-tech??? who would have thought??? WOW I would never have thought!!

Truckers invented the Internet! (2, Insightful)

tomRakewell (412572) | more than 6 years ago | (#23514012)

Truckers may not be able to pronounce "Illinois" real well, but they did adopt CB Radios back in the 1970s. That was the closest thing to the Internet until... the Internet.

In case your memory is short: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DaammaHevT0

This really isn't that new... (5, Interesting)

jcwren (166164) | more than 6 years ago | (#23514024)

Back in '91, IBM won a contract from J.B. Hunt to develop a satellite based system for trucks. It used a Qualcomm satellite system, a 486SX based tablet computer (I designed the keyboard controller, power management processor and did a lot of the BIOS work on it), and a docking station.

The tablet ran a program designed by a sub-contractor that allowed the trucker to do things like checklists, fuel management, figure his trip earnings, report emergencies, etc.

One of J.B. Hunts driving (heh) reasons was that after a driver delivered his load, he might spend 30 minutes thumbing the same quarter into a payphone trying to call the dispatcher. With this system, he could send a communique that he was done, and the system would turn around with new orders in less than 2 minutes.

One of the other neat things was the Qualcomm dish could do triangulation that was accurate to a few hundred yards. At least twice I know of, rigs were stolen and recovered because of the satellite tracking.

Now the little antenna packages are ubiquitous on trucks. Look behind the air dam on the roof, or the back of the cab, and you'll see a white dome that's about 12" in diameter, and 10" tall. Odds are that's a Qualcomm satellite link.

The tablet system was pretty neat, too. It was an extremely dense PCB at the time, 16 layers. It supported the original Sundisk (before they became Sandisk) 2.5MB flash drives, touch screen, used Peltier devices to allow operation in extreme temperatures, had RS-232, RS-422, infrared, keyboard & mouse port, expansion connectors, LCD controller, all that stuff, in an aluminum frame with this heavy duty rubber covering over it.

The holster interfaced to the trucks wiring harness and could pick off speed (we were pre-GPS), RPM, voltage, stuff like that. Our group didn't handle the holster, so I only know vague details about it, but I do know that while they were considered some of the vehicle data busses for the future, they interfaced the old-fashioned way.

Most of the drivers were moderately receptive to the system, since it sped up their turn-around time, which meant more money. However, since it could tattle on exceeding maximum allowed drive time, over-revving, and of course speeding, there were some drivers that had real problems with it.

Incidentally, at that point in time, J.B. Hunt was a VERY large customer of IBM main frames. For the previous 7 years, they upgraded every year to IBMs newest mainframe offerings. Their big data center was somewhere in the Mid-west, I believe. With their route planning, logistics management, service records system, dispatch system and everything else, they burned a lot of CPU cycles.

Somewhere in my basement, I have one of the docking holsters and the tablet computer, and as of about a year ago, it powered up and booted into DOS.

J.B. Hunt and IBM learned an important lesson from this, too: Don't let the driver be able to see the tablet. Before they started positioning them where the driver couldn't read it while in motion, at least one accident occurred because of fixation.

While new technologies have brought more to the table, what the system offered 17 years ago isn't all that drastically different. Satellite is still the best choice, since cell phone coverage is not 100% pervasive.

The project name was Road Rider. Naturally, we called it Road Kill internally :)

Freight prices have not gone up in years (4, Insightful)

tomRakewell (412572) | more than 6 years ago | (#23514054)

I've been getting full semis delivered to me from Ohio to Minnesota for exactly $1050. This price has not changed in the past 4 years.

Just the other day, I had a competing trucking company come in and quote out the job. Their quote was... $1050.

The price of diesel fuel has quadrupled in this time.

I can not believe that technology is making the difference here. I think truckers are getting screwed.

I know there were some threats of a trucking strike a month or two ago that came to nothing. I would not be surprised to see this happen, and if it did, the country would be brought to its knees.

Re:Freight prices have not gone up in years (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 6 years ago | (#23514142)

fuel isn't the big cost in freight though, even though the transport industry makes a big deal out of it.

registrations and regulation costs + wages is the big ticket items. all things considered fuel is still very cheap when you look at just how much work it does.

Re:Freight prices have not gone up in years (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23514274)

Let's see. Ohio to Minnesota? Say that's 900 miles and 15ish hours of driving. Median freight trucker wage is, oh, $15ish, so only about $240 of that was going to pay the driver to begin with. The other 80% of the money is "not driver" expenses. It doesn't cry out as the place you'd apply the squeeze, as the guy you're paying 20% is what a lot of your success hinges on.

Also, truckers have an ungodly union.

Re:Freight prices have not gone up in years (1)

Zerth (26112) | more than 6 years ago | (#23514202)

I can not believe that technology is making the difference here. I think truckers are getting screwed.


Or you were getting screwed 4 years ago.

Re:Freight prices have not gone up in years (1)

fatboyslack (634391) | more than 6 years ago | (#23514210)

I can not believe that technology is making the difference here. I think truckers are getting screwed.
It's the same in Australia, initially a lot of companies had contracts with oil companies etc but those are being renegotiated and the smaller companies are really struggling to make ends meet. Nearly all profit has been cut out.

Pretty old tech (1)

fatboyslack (634391) | more than 6 years ago | (#23514192)

The technologies listed here are pretty old now.

You now have systems where you have one truck with a driver is followed by several driverless trucks. You also can have automatic parking / reversing.

I can't find any links at the moment but I've seen them demo'd at tradeshows.

Only read the mouseover diagram.. (1)

AngryLlama (611814) | more than 6 years ago | (#23514438)

but an onboard computer AND handheld computer. Impressive!
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