The wheels are turning… are you alert?

By Robert Esler, OOIDA Life Member

Safety experts and engineers seem to be trying to outdo one another with the latest and greatest inventions in safety technology. That, on its face, appears to be the cure-all. But, in reality, are they working? What are the costs versus benefits?

Trucks of today can be equipped with all sorts of devices that buzz, ring, flash warning lights, and beep to alert the driver of an impending safety issue. Could be lane departure, could be following too close, could be a number of things. Most of the time an incident has already occurred because the driver could not react quickly enough. Companies are installing cameras to monitor the driver. Wow, that’s really going to keep a driver alert. Not to mention ELDs.

We are building a culture of drivers who are becoming dependent on computers to bail them out of trouble. In other words, instead of being proactive they are reactive. The industry is trying to make drivers like mind-numbed robots. Drivers are humans, not computers.

Case in point, I never had cruise control on any of the trucks I owned. I started driving a company truck that had cruise control. I almost turned over a tanker because I got dependent on the cruise control. The last speeding ticket I got in a commercial vehicle was in the ’80s with a radar detector on the dash. Out the window went the fuzz buster and no speeding tickets since.

In 2009, a plane crashed in New York because the flight crew was not paying attention to business. They were in adverse weather. One pilot had not flown in icy conditions. They were on autopilot when they should have been in physical control. Things went south. All were lost. Millions of dollars in safety devices on that aircraft were useless because of them not being alert.

The military will tell you the war is not won with technology. It takes a well-trained disciplined foot soldier on the ground to win the day. The same applies in transportation.

A well-trained, properly motivated driver beats them all. LL