October is a busy month for construction equipment, whether it requires maintenance, storage or promotion. From Equipment Exposition to bauma, the show season circuit is well underway. From Truck Driver Appreciation Week in September to pink construction equipment dedicated to raising breast cancer awareness in the month of October, fall is a full and engaging time.
Preparing for fall and the inevitable winter always has me looking to the future. This issue peers into that future, both short- and long-term. I consider the long-term implications of shows like bauma, Equip Expo and iVT, the equipment they share with the industry and the trends seen at these shows. The Association of Equipment Manufacturers recently released a whitepaper analysis of 10 trends it foresees dramatically impacting the construction industry in the next decade. From connected jobsites to big data to wearables, construction technology undoubtedly will innovate, expand, and alter the construction industry as we know it. Read our exclusive coverage of the analysis in this issue.
One trend that specifically caught my eye in the AEM whitepaper was the predicted pathway toward autonomous machinery, along with increased sensors in equipment – both trends should help improve the working environment for truck drivers and construction equipment operators worldwide.
Truck Driver Appreciation Week was Sep. 11-17, though we should show appreciation for these hardworking professionals every day. In this issue, readers will find several nods to our nation’s truck driver workforce, a varied bunch of professionals who ensure we have enough food to eat, clothing to wear, material to construct with and aggregate to develop and improve infrastructure.
At a recent Mack Trucks press event in the Allentown, Penn. area, I got to experience several of the trends described in the AEM whitepaper – autonomous machinery and sensors – by getting behind the wheel of Mack Anthem and Granite trucks equipped with the latest Command Steer technology.
The Command Steer technology comprises a variable steering system that reacts to different driver situations, funneling up to 11 Nm of torque assist into the steering shaft of a Mack Truck. Command Steer considers road conditions, driver behavior and environmental elements, and includes sensors that receive environmental input more than 2,000 times per second. For example, in the event of a tire blowout, Command Steer can help keep the truck moving straight and forward, rather than veering to the side.
The Mack Trucks team said that Command Steer can reduce driver effort up to 85% and reduce fatigue by 30% -- beneficial implications for the ongoing labor challenges in the trucking industry. As I got behind the wheel of a Mack Anthem equipped with Command Steer and slowly progressed through the obstacle course set up for us at a quarry in Easton, Pennsylvania, I noticed how the steering wheel smoothed the rough roads, and I observed light steering at low speeds. This day was the first time I’ve ever driven a heavy-duty truck, and I appreciated the Command Steer’s ability to help in various scenarios, like maintaining stability through potholes, crowned roads and high winds.
This split-friction stability compensates for unexpected conditions and recognizes the driver’s desire to keep the truck moving straight forward rather than turning, according to Mack Senior Product Manager Tim Wrinkle and Mack Highway Product Manager Stuart Russoli. Command Steer’s sensors and technology also work in tandem to provide a return-to-zero feature, which cycles the steering wheel back to the neutral position automatically if the driver releases the steering wheel while the truck is in motion. This comes in handy on sudden, jarring road conditions, like the uneven cracks down a hill in the quarry.
It seems the trucking industry is keeping sensors at the top of its priority list for future innovation. Earlier in September, Grote Industries announced the launch of its 4SEE Smart Trailer, another high-tech product to help drivers stay safe and reduce excess work and troubleshooting. The 4SEE Smart Trailer will offer mobile app integration for the truck driver. The trailer technology product itself combines cameras, light sensors, undercarriage and cargo sensing, tire pressure monitoring and wheel-end readings to improve safety, security and stability of the trailer for the driver.
The 4SEE Smart Trailer is set up to integrate a wide variety of sensors and lights, including back-ups, strobes and beacons, according to Grote Industries Director of Engineering Adam Slade.
4SEE will enhance driver safety by connecting effectively to data, the Grote Industries team said. The smart trailer can react to the surrounding environment and leverage data from other sensors, such as indicating the trailer’s interior and exterior distances from potentially hazardous objects.
The Grote Industries and Mack Trucks technology products signal the future of trucking and aim to improve driver retention, a sorely needed effort in the trucking and construction industries. Next month’s issue, November, will have a special focus on trucks and transportation, so there is more to come on this topic.
In the meantime, enjoy the fall shows, whether they’re for construction equipment or foliage. And, if you are not going to Munich, be sure to check out our bauma product previews!