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As trucking relies more and more on things like smartphones, the internet, and even electricity as we move into a zero-emission freight future, we are faced with the challenge of creating systems that have 100% uptime and 100% reliability.

Roeth: When wants become needs or even musts

March 13, 2024
Fleets are becoming increasingly dependent on technology, and the industry must ensure that these technologies are reliable and stable.

My parents used to say, “You don’t need that, Mike. You just want it.” My younger self was not necessarily good at seeing the difference between those two words.

The cell phone outage that occurred in February got me thinking about this. At one point, cell phones were “wants,” not “needs.” You could easily get along without them when they first came out. Today, it is a different story. Ask people who were part of that outage how they would define their cell phone. I am guessing most of them would use the words “must have.”

Last week, I talked to several fleets about how the cell phone outage impacted them. In fact, we should probably call them smartphones. Almost all of them talked about the importance of smartphones for communicating with drivers. Many smartphone apps have become an integral part of operating a fleet or driving a commercial vehicle. Routing directions is a simple example of communication with drivers that, if not possible, can prevent trucks from operating.

As trucking relies increasingly on smartphones, the internet, and even electricity as we move into a zero-emission freight future, we are faced with the challenge of creating systems that have 100% uptime and 100% reliability. We must do this at a time when we will be placing increased demand on the grid and on the infrastructure that supports these smartphones and internet connectivity.

See also: Fleets find ways to integrate new technology and optimize operations

I believe this is one of those challenges that will require cooperation and collaboration among a wide variety of stakeholders—some of whom the trucking industry has not traditionally interacted with in the past.

We need to begin working on this challenge now because the solutions will likely take time to implement. In the meantime, these technologies will become even more integral to the efficient and profitable operation of the nation’s fleets.

Although these challenges are significant, they are not insurmountable, especially if we get the right groups of people working collaboratively on finding solutions.

Let me challenge each of you to begin a discussion on securing the reliability of the various technologies that have become “musts” for our industry so that we can all count on them no matter what.

About the Author

Michael Roeth | Executive Director

Michael Roeth has worked in the commercial vehicle industry for nearly 30 years, most recently as executive director of the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE). He serves on the second National Academy of Sciences Committee on Technologies and Approaches for Reducing the Fuel Consumption of Medium and Heavy-Duty Vehicles and has held various positions in engineering, quality, sales, and plant management with Navistar and Behr/Cummins.

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