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Emerging smart phone apps promise to transform the trucking business by offering trucking companies and truck drivers opportunities to maximize capacity, minimize time spent at weigh stations and inspection sites, and improve navigational assistance. Cargomatic—the Uber of trucking apps—allows local businesses to find trucks in their area that have free space and track delivery. The benefits are obvious for small businesses that don’t have the time and effort to find trucks and for trucking companies that are seeking to fill empty space in their trucks. Trucker Path—a Yelp for the trucking world—is an interactive app that provides up-to-date information to help truckers find truck stops, rest areas, parking, and more. Users provide information and ratings for each location, allowing drivers to determine whether certain stops are open or closed, for example.
On the one hand, these apps promise to improve the day-to-day lives of truckers by offering time-saving services. On the other hand, as with all mobile apps, there are safety/legal concerns as well. The main concern for Ted Scott, the director of engineering for the American Trucking Association (“ATA”), is the potential for distracted driving, an issue that has plagued the trucking industry for years. A 2007 Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration study revealed that in 81% of safety critical events (crashes, near-crashes, unintentional lane deviations) involving commercial motor vehicles, driver distraction was a contributing factor. Because most of the mobile apps will need to be on while a trucker is driving, the ATA is justifiably concerned about drivers taking their eyes off the road. Even though several laws and regulations addressing distracted driving currently exist, trucking companies and regulators have found it increasingly difficult to enforce them.
An additional benefit the trucking industry anticipates from these mobile apps—an increase in the number of truck drivers—may also exacerbate another existing problem: a shortage of parking for truck drivers. According to a study by the Federal Highway Administration, 75% of truck drivers and 66% of logistics personnel reported regularly having problems finding safe parking when it was time to rest. That number increases to 90% for truck drivers looking for available parking at night. The lack of parking may force truckers to exceed the maximum allowable amount of driving hours while searching for parking and even park (often illegally) on road shoulders, a dangerous practice that law enforcement and safety regulators cite as a critical issue facing the trucking industry. Trucker Path, however, could help with this, as it provides up-to-date information to help truckers find parking.
The potential problems associated with these mobile apps are nothing new—trucking companies have tried for years to prevent drivers from using cell phones and to provide better routes to improve a driver’s chances to find parking. But to benefit from these new technologies, while at the same time keeping safety as a top priority, trucking companies may need to look into utilizing voice recognition technology or preventing drivers from using these apps while their vehicles are traveling over a predetermined speed.
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