Technology, Nuclear Verdicts Among Hot Topics in Panel Discussion

TCA Forum panel at Truckload 2023 Orlando
From left: Panelists Dave Jackson of Swift-Knight, Mike Gerdin of Heartland Express, Derek Leathers of Werner Enterprises and moderator Rob Penner of Bison Transport. (Noël Fletcher/Transport Topics)

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ORLANDO, Fla. — The use of technology and ways to combat nuclear verdicts were among the topics discussed and debated during a roundtable session at the Truckload Carriers Association’s Truckload 2023 Orlando.

Sharing their views March 6 at the “Trucking Open Forum: Today’s Industry Hot Topics” were Mike Gerdin, chairman and CEO of Heartland Express; Dave Jackson, president and CEO of Knight-Swift Transportation; and Derek Leathers, chairman, president and CEO of Werner Enterprises.

Moderator Rob Penner, president and CEO of Bison Transport, asked about the importance of equipment, and the panelists pointed to cameras as a “game changer” for helping defend against frivolous lawsuits and assisting drivers in improving their skills.

Gerdin described Heartland as a late adopter of cameras that quickly became convinced that the return on investment to install cameras was worthwhile, particularly since they can exonerate drivers wrongly accused of causing accidents.

Also agreeing about the benefits, Leathers said Werner uses forward-facing cameras.

The topic of nuclear verdicts also generated much discussion. Suggestions included passing federal legislation (congressional tort reform) and removing employee drug use through better screening.

“It’s very difficult to do something at the federal level,” Leathers countered. Instead, he advocated a state-by-state approach “to chip away” at the overall issue. He suggested stakeholders in each state ensure they have laws to make driving safer (such as mandatory seat belts and distracted driving laws) to create an overall better driving environment.

When asked about the use of technologies in their businesses, panelists offered suggestions based on their experiences.

Heartland Express logo

Gerdin suggested trucking companies seek technology to simplify drivers’ jobs, especially with easier communications.

Jackson said companies can find platforms that adapt to their needs rather than buy technology that forces them to change how they operate. Two types of recommended open-source software are Elasticsearch (a data storage, search engine and analytics software) and Apache Kafka, (a distributed event streaming platform for high-performance data pipelines and streaming analytics).

Other tips included encouraging trucking companies to evaluate technology by looking at “need to have” instead of “like to have” because something that improves office work may not help drivers.

Panelists agreed on the importance of seeking ways to improve the lives of drivers through new technology and software as good primary objectives.

Heartland ranks No. 66 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest for-hire carriers in North America. Knight-Swift ranks No. 7, Werner ranks No. 17 and Bison ranks No. 53.

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