As we approach the New Year, it’s good to take a look back at the big transportation-related news stories of 2014. We’ll post part two tomorrow.
The Arrival of Trucks of the Future
The future arrived on July 3rd, when Daimler Trucks announced it was working on an autonomous truck (one that drives itself). A few months later, the company presented the concept truck at the IAA show in Hanover, Germany.
The Future Truck 2025 features a sleek and aerodynamic Mercedes Actros cabover, vehicle-to-vehicle communication, front, side, and rear-facing radar, and its own lane-keeping system. As the name implies, the new design will not be ready for market until at least 2025, but it is a sign of radical changes preparing to sweep over the industry.
Walmart presented another view of the trucking future with its own Peterbilt/Great Dane concept tractor-trailer. It can’t drive itself, but this truck’s fuel efficiency is revolutionary. The carbon-fiber trailer weighs 4,000 pounds less than traditional trailers do and the teardrop-shaped body has 20% better aerodynamics. The engine can run any fuel, from diesel to gas to bio-fuel.
Adapting to Extreme Weather Conditions
2014 was a difficult year for weather. January and February delivered deep snow and severe cold across much of the U.S. while western states baked in dangerous heat and drought. Warm rain triggered an avalanche that completely cut off one Alaskan town for ten days. California’s drought only deepened as the year progressed, becoming the worst dry period in the state’s history. New York finished the year with one of its worst blizzards ever.
Not surprisingly, all that bad weather challenged the freight industry both directly, through poor road conditions, and indirectly, through slowed economies in impacted areas. Climate change is likely to bring more extreme weather in future years (yes, including extreme snow!), so many in the industry have begun discussing ways to adjust to coming changes.
Driver Wages And Bonuses Increased Across The Industry
The driver shortage has been a big story throughout the year, with companies trying various strategies to get and retain the talent they need. 2014 saw a huge increase in compensation through raises in base pay, signing bonuses, retention bonuses, and performance bonuses. Driving a truck now offers the same median take-home pay as the country as a whole, making it one of the best ways to earn a living in the nation.
FMCSA Announced The Speed Limiter Rule
In March, the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) responded to requests by the American Trucking Association (ATA) and Roadsafe America for a rule requiring speed limiters on Class 8 vehicles. Roughly 1,000 fatal crashes per year involve heavy trucking, a number speed limiters should be able to reduce. FMCSA now intends to issue the rule sometime early next year.