Special Coverage



Connected Vehicle Experts Discuss OEM Role, Safety

Chris Lee, vice president of engineering at Great Dane Trailers
Chris Lee, vice president of engineering at Great Dane Trailers by John Sommers II for Transport Topics

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ATLANTA — Original equipment manufacturers have an important role to play in the adoption of connected vehicle technology, according to Chris Lee, vice president of engineering at Great Dane Trailers.

Lee spoke at American Trucking Associations’ Technology & Maintenance Council annual meeting Feb. 26. Specifically, he participated in a symposium co-sponsored by TMC and SAE International titled “The Combination Vehicle as a Connected Whole.” SAE International is an association of engineers and technical experts that represents the commercial vehicle, automotive and aerospace industries.

Lee said some concerns surrounding tractor-trailer connectivity are communication, safe and integrated systems, and strong physical connection.

According to Lee, smart trailers have become a popular subject in recent years. He said a smart trailer has the ability to communicate with the driver in the tractor and the operations team at the home office. Besides GPS location data, customers rely on information about temperature and maintenance history.

Lee said OEMS that produce trailers need to be able to provide users with a “consolidated data package.”

“Trailer OEMs will have to invest resources and capital to be on the forefront as a leader,” Lee said. “I believe trailer OEMs will play an active leadership role in future technology. I think everyone agrees that no one knows more about trailers than trailer builders.”

Some freight haulers have expressed concern about autonomous vehicle technologies because of the perception that trucks may soon be driving themselves. Skip Yeakel, principal engineer for Volvo Group North America, acknowledged that autonomous technology will continue to play a role in transportation systems, but assured listeners that truck drivers still will be working for years to come.


Skip Yeakel, principal engineer for Volvo Group North America, will retire March 2. Yeakel has been in trucking for 57 years and with Volvo for 52. (Eleanor Lamb/Transport Topics)

SAE International categorizes driving automation on a scale with levels between 0 and 5. Level 5, the highest classification, refers to complete driving automation. Yeakel said humans are Level 0.

He noted the safety benefits associated with autonomous technology, including the ability to operate in locations that are dangerous for people, such as mines.

“We can make trucking better through automation, and I think that’s the kind of thing we should be doing,” Yeakel said. “These systems save lives.”

During the session, TMC Technical Director Jack Legler joined Yeakel in announcing that Yeakel’s last day at Volvo will be March 2. Yeakel has worked for Volvo for 52 of his 57 years in the trucking business.

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