February 22, 2018 7:00 PM, EST

Editorial: A Turn of Phrase

There’s no shortage of catchy phrases to describe the sights and sounds of the trucking industry: what’s “under the hood” or “down the road” or who’s “behind the wheel,” for example.

These themes are also handy for describing issues confronting the industry, both in the short and long term, that cropped up in relation to some recent and upcoming industry events.

At last week’s Recruitment & Retention Conference, American Trucking Associations President Chris Spear said motor carriers must look “beyond the hood” in their planning for the future, especially as it relates to a long-term solution to the industry’s driver shortage. Spear stressed that one way to achieve this is to elevate the appeal of driving as a career choice for young people and to use technology to make it happen. (The conference is co-hosted by Conversion Interactive Agency, ATA and Transport Topics.)

Speaking more broadly, Spear noted that if the industry is willing to embrace new concepts, technology could spur growth for trucking. In particular, he mentioned platooning, and also urged fleets to be engaged in the conversation about autonomous technology.

On that issue, lawmakers are also looking “down the road” and planning an event where executives from the commercial and transportation industries will discuss the prospects for the technology. A forum scheduled to be hosted by the U.S. Department of Transportation on March 1 will give stakeholders a chance to make a case for initiatives they believe will carry autonomous mobility forward.

As of our press time, no list of panelists had been released. Regardless, here’s hoping that whoever winds up speaking will urge lawmakers to include trucking in the mix; early drafts of autonomous legislation have overlooked trucking, an omission we believe could hinder both the technology’s prospects and also the trucking industry’s ability to capitalize on its promised efficiency gains.

Some on Capitol Hill recognize the flaw in this oversight and understand trucking’s importance on this issue. So, let’s hope the nation’s lawmakers have some good vision “down the road” when crafting these rules, since they could very well shape what drivers see and do from “behind the wheel” for years to come.