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January 10, 2019 6:15 PM, EST

Editorial: Trucks and Tech at CES

If anyone needed more proof that trucking is a tech-savvy industry, look no further than the bright lights of Las Vegas, where the annual CES technology show featured a string of announcements from major industry players.

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This isn’t the first year that trucking has made a splash at the show, which for years was known more for gadgets and gear than cabs and chassis. But just as the show has evolved, so has trucking. Today, it makes perfect sense that the industry would be well-represented at the event. This year, that meant announcements from no fewer than three truck makers, spotlighting automated driving and electric and hydrogen-powered trucks, along with exhibits from developers of technologies that serve trucking. Speaking exclusively with Transport Topics, Nikola Motor Co. CEO Trevor Milton noted that while his company didn’t exhibit its hydrogen-electric Class 8 truck, he likes to attend the show to check out the innovations on display.

So did our reporters; we had two on the scene this year, who came back with tales of row after row of whiz-bang exhibits. Seeing it all left them with sore legs, but that won’t stop us from placing boots on the ground at the show for years to come. In short order, it’s become a must-attend for the industry.

Perhaps it should come as little surprise that trucking has made its way to CES; after all, technology vendors have been increasingly visible at industry events for years now. It wasn’t so long ago that a trucking industry trade show would be more about chrome stacks than touch screens, but there has definitely been a tide shift. Sure, there’s still plenty of chrome to be seen, but as more and more functions of the business of trucking go tech — electronic logs come to mind — there is an increasing urgency for vendors to fill that need. And there’s no shortage of them. And let’s not forget about the engine management, service diagnostics and in-cab communications that are run by computers. It’s still fun to dress up a truck with accessories, but underneath it all technology has taken over.

We’d submit that is good. Trucks are cleaner, more fuel-efficient and safer than they’ve ever been, and technological advancements have made that possible. So while it may seem like the industry’s emergence at CES is somewhat sudden, in reality trucking has been on this technological march for some time. And it now has taken another big step.