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July 11, 2016 4:00 AM, EDT

Letters: Coping With Technology

These letters appear in the July 11 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

There Is a Need to Roll The Dice on Technology

Regarding the Transport Topics June 30 online story “Why Will the Feds Let Robots Drive Trucks but Not Trains?” I just wanted to let you know that I liked the article so much I shared it extensively on LinkedIn with a similar title and comment.

I also find the situation “pretty ironic” as you can tell from my posting. My TT newspaper usually is delivered every Monday, and when it is not in the mailbox on Monday, that is the start of a crappy week.

How many trucking industries are there in the United States? The reason I ask is there seems to be a trucking industry that is going to build very expensive trucks that are operated by robots and various levels of artificial intelligence, or AI. The pitch is there will be a fantastic return on investment by eliminating the driver and/or assisting the drivers who will still be in the cab to be much more productive.

The trucking industry I deal with is one that when offered a high-tech product that has a fantastic ROI and assists the driver today, it responds that automation in trucking is too expensive no matter the ROI, which doesn’t mean a thing if “something might go wrong.” In the future, the system will be autonomous using AI.

The trucking industry I deal with doesn’t even want to admit there is a problem, based on comments made at a recent Technology & Maintenance Council tire and wheel meeting. In my 46 years in the trucking industry, I have never witnessed so much crazy talk about anything like this. It reminds me of the story, “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”

Is there a secret handshake and password I need to get access to those in the other trucking industry, those who see the Emperor’s new suit, understand ROI and will roll the dice on proven technology? Please share it with me.

Bob Rutherford

Consultant

Rutherford & Co.

Franklin, Tenn.

Mandate Technology For Collision Avoidance

Transport Topics' June 20 editorial, "Collision Technology Proves Its Worth," rightfully acknowledges the promise of collision-avoidance safety technologies in eliminating crashes.

Yet, somewhat amazingly, the piece goes on to say that it is “a bit early for [the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration] to say all trucks must now adopt collision avoidance.” We strongly disagree. Safety is FedEx’s top priority, and we believe that adopting proven, life-saving technology should be a requirement, not a choice.

The evidence for collision avoidance and mitigation technology is clear and undeniable. Years of study and millions of dollars invested by carriers, government agencies and other stakeholders demonstrate that technologies such as forward collision and mitigation, speed limiters, roll stability control systems and lane-departure warnings are effective and ready for deployment.

This is not an exhaustive list, but rather a sampling of safety technologies that the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration already has studied and promoted. It is time that the U.S. Department of Transportation takes the common-sense next step forward and mandates the use of these life-saving technologies in both trucks and cars.

This is the fastest and surest way to make America’s roads safer for all that use them.

Scott A. Mugno

Vice President

Safety & Vehicle Maintenance

FedEx Ground