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New drivers need to stop leaning on GPS, develop navigational skills, trainer says

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Eddy Mullins has been training drivers for JB Hunt for 18 years, and he says new drivers are coming to him today with less and less in the way of navigational skills due to their over-reliance on GPS technology. (Courtesy: EDDY MULLINS)

Doesn’t it sometimes seem like people in trucking are constantly asking, “What direction is this industry headed?”

That’s a complicated question that encompasses a lot of long-range topics. Who can see that far ahead?

For now, Eddy Mullins is more concerned about drivers who can’t tell what direction their own trucks are headed.

Mullins has been training truck drivers for JB Hunt since 1999, shortly before GPS and smartphones exploded onto the market and changed how drivers navigate, or rather how they let themselves be navigated.

“When you sit up high in a truck, you can see people, those GPS’s everywhere,” Mullins said. “I see people who look lost, like they’re just waiting for that voice to say, ‘turn right in 500 feet.’

“Don’t get me wrong, I love my technology,” he added. “I’ve got my phone, I’ve got a tablet, I’ve got a bunch of electronic gadgets. But some things, you still need to do it the old way.”

But in the last few years, Mullins has noticed his job getting tougher, as new drivers are coming to him lacking skills that would have been almost taken for granted a generation ago.

“I started driving in 1995,” Mullins said. “When I first started we spent three whole days in class learning how to read a map and trip plan.

“Nowadays, they just say, ‘put the address in the GPS and go.’ I’ve trained some fairly new drivers and they’re like, ‘map? What’s a map? They never taught us that.’”

Maybe even more disturbing is that many new drivers seem to lack skills that are even more basic.

“I’ll ask them, ‘OK, the way we’re standing here right now, which direction are we facing? No, no, put the phone down. Which direction are we facing? If the sun rises over there, what does that tell you about what direction we’re facing?”

Part of Mullins’ job has become convincing new drivers not to be GPS dependent. ”I tell them, the GPS is only a tool,” he said. “You still need to plan your trips and don’t blindly rely on that thing. It can and will get you in trouble.”

Nearly anyone who’s used a GPS with any frequency has experienced some kind of snafu – the instruction to turn when there isn’t a road there, being taken around the block for no apparent reason, the sudden unannounced recalculation.

Yet people still hand navigational responsibility to their GPS, sometimes over their own senses and common sense. Occasionally, drivers who’ve taken this behavior to the extreme make the news after driving or almost driving into lakes, over cliffs and off roads and bridges that were closed for construction.

Mullins collects these stories along with pictures of trucks whose drivers allowed a GPS to lead them into embarrassing and sometimes dangerous situations to show his trainees.

“They’ll say, ‘what’s he doing on that walking path?’ I’ll say, ‘he was following his GPS. ‘What’s he doing on the [Atlantic City] boardwalk in a truck?’ ‘He was following his GPS. See what I’m getting at?’”

One common element to all of these stories is the drivers try to blame their predicament on the GPS. In many of these cases, the stories describe how the driver ignored warning signs, flashing lights and barricades in order to follow the machine’s verbal commands.

Mullins has seen and heard the same from drivers he’s trained. “They’re so focused on listening to that voice, they’re not aware of their surroundings. Like there’s a low bridge coming up, or, wait a minute, this is a neighborhood, what’s a truck doing in a neighborhood? ‘But the GPS says go this way.’ What about those big signs that say, ‘no trucks’?”

Researchers have shown that the saying, “it isn’t the destination, it’s the journey that matters” takes on new meaning when it comes to GPS use and its effect on drivers. There are definite use-it-or-lose it consequences from overreliance on the devices.

In 2016, a study at University College London compared brain activity between drivers given turn-by-turn instructions from a GPS and drivers on their own. The study found that when drivers used their own senses, there was a spike in activity in the parts of the brain responsible for navigation and planning.

No such increase in brain activity was recorded in the drivers who simply followed GPS directions.

Other studies have indicated that the more people depend on technology to lead them around, the less they retain their natural ability to navigate on their own, much the way muscles weaken from lack of exercise. A 2006 study of London cab drivers who’d navigated that city’s complicated streets for years found these drivers had above-average development in the area of the brain that processes spatial representation. The study also suggested that this pumped-up part of the brain starts to diminish once the drivers retire.

One of the key problems with GPS is its focus on an A-to-B route.  The driver’s task is reduced to doing what the voice tells him to do. At this level of disengagement, the driver’s mind is prevented from what is called cognitive mapping, a combination of instinct and intellect that humans normally use to find their way around.

In the automotive age, cognitive mapping often begins with studying an actual map, plotting out a route, noting the towns you’ll pass through, the natural and manmade landmarks you’ll encounter.

Memory, vision and other cognitive functions all come into play while driving – reading the road signs, noting the landscape, creating your own mental landmarks.

Mullins advice to younger, beginning drivers is to take the time to learn how to use a map and an atlas along with your GPS. Learn the little things, too. He runs into many young drivers who were never taught that interstates with odd numbers run north-south, while those with even number run east-west. It’s these little things that can help you find your bearings when the tools have steered you wrong.

Even for veteran drivers, he said, it’s a good idea to check yourself now and then to make sure you haven’t fallen into the bad habit of blindly following that placid mechanical voice.

“Nothing is 100 percent,” he said.  It’s still important to use the navigational tools you were born with because maps and atlases can be flawed, just like GPS instructions.

And if all else fails, he said, there’s an old-school, all-but-forgotten trick he learned back when he was a beginner and would get lost from time to time.

“It’s called stopping and asking the locals for directions.”

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Diesel Laptops launches virtual diesel technician program

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Clients that utilize this program have full, unlimited access to Diesel Laptops’ certified, in-house diesel technicians who are available via phone and live chat and can both remote access the client’s diagnostic tools, and video stream through the end user’s mobile device. (Courtesy: DIESEL LAPTOPS)

GILBERT, S.C. — Diesel Laptops, a distributor of commercial truck diesel diagnostic software, hardware and services, has launched a Virtual Diesel Technician Program.

This program is a first in the commercial truck and off highway industry and is a real solution to the current diesel technician shortage that exists, according to according to Tyler Robertson, CEO of Diesel Laptops.

Clients that utilize this program have full, unlimited access to Diesel Laptops’ certified, in-house diesel technicians who are available via phone and live chat and can both remote access the client’s diagnostic tools, and video stream through the end user’s mobile device.

The program also grants clients access to the wide array of repair information that Diesel Laptops has created.

This repair information includes VIN decoders, labor time guides, repair information on over 70,000 diagnostic fault codes, wiring diagrams, component locators, torque specifications, parts cross referencing, step-by-step repair information, and much more Robertson said.

These applications are provided through traditional desktop applications, along with websites and mobile applications.

“We all know that it is difficult to find qualified technicians,” Robertson said. “We also know it’s difficult for most shops to acquire the resources they need to properly diagnose and repair commercial trucks. The Virtual Diesel Technician Program gives repair shops access to both live, real world diesel technicians and repair information.”

Diesel Laptops is staffed with certified diesel technicians from a variety of industries, and currently handles more than 50,000 customer repair, software, and diagnostic questions every year, Robertson said.

“These are all documented and organized in the company’s database, allowing Diesel Laptops to build the world’s largest database of solutions for known symptoms and diagnostic codes,” he said.

To learn more about the Virtual Diesel Technician Program, including watching an explainer video, visit www.DieselLaptops.com

Diesel Laptops, founded in 2014, provides specialized diesel diagnostic equipment for the commercial truck, construction, automobile, agriculture, marine, and off-highway markets. Diesel Laptops is the industry leader in diesel diagnostic tools.

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Schneider rolls out tablets to improve driver experience, efficiency

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Since Schneider assigns the driver and not the truck, every Schneider driver has everything needed — from apps to news to delivery information and bonus pay statements — at their fingertips. (Courtesy: SCHNEIDER)

GREEN BAY, Wis.  — Schneider isn’t just one of the largest trucking carriers in North America.

It is a leader in utilizing new technology to improve driver experiences.

Since it became the first company to incorporate two-way satellite communication systems in cabs in 1988, Schneider has been an early adopter of many technology developments.

Most recently, the company began rolling out Samsung Galaxy tablet devices to its drivers to make their lives easier both in and out of the truck, according to Mark Rourke, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Schneider.

Since the tablet is assigned to the driver and not the truck, every Schneider driver has everything he or she needs — from apps to news to delivery information and bonus pay statements — at their fingertips.

“I like that I don’t have to write everything down — like pick up numbers and customer info. It’s all right there for me, so I don’t have to go to a truck stop to do that paperwork,” said Schneider driver Shawn Calloway. “I’ll admit, I was hesitant at first, but it’s been a great portable tool that lets me streamline my work so I can get back on the road.”

Tablets also lay the foundation for future capabilities such as electronic signatures and transfer of documents, Rourke said, adding that as the technology evolves, Schneider is committed to the enhancement of the driver experience and will quickly accommodate additions and changes to the suite of new system tools.

“We have upgraded the in-cab communication system and provided new capabilities outside of the truck for drivers,” Rourke said. “We’ve listened and heard from drivers on how tablets are difference makers in making their lives easier. Putting technology in the palm of a driver’s hand is one of many ways we’re enhancing their experience.”

Testing of tablet-based solutions began in early 2015 with a pilot group of Schneider drivers who trialed the tablets alongside the current in-cab system. The resulting feedback noted their improved experience and elimination of the irritants of the previous processes, namely paperwork.

“It’s like an electronic Swiss army knife,” Rourke said. “All the tools and apps like MyPilot, Weigh My Truck, and Schneider’s Compass are in one easy-to-use place for drivers.”

Drivers are also using the tablets to:

  • Track work
  • Get customer information
  • Complete training without a facility stop
  • Look up bonus info
  • Weather and road conditions
  • Turn-by-turn GPS directions
  • Read news, messages, videos and more

Those interested in learning more about Schneider’s easy-to-use tablets and finding jobs with a company focused on improving the driver experience can visit schneiderjobs.com.

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Bendix rolling out new advanced technology training courses for 2019

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ELYRIA, Ohio — To help fleets, technicians and owner-operators keep pace with today’s ever-advancing truck technologies, Bendix (Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems and Bendix Spicer Foundation Brake) has doubled its technical training force and enhanced its long-running in-person training programs for 2019.

A new two-day Advanced Technology Training program is now available, in addition to the established three-day Air Brake Training class that has set the industry training standard for decades. Registration is open for the complete schedule of both courses, shown on the last page of this news release.

The 2019 edition of the in-person Air Brake Training class, which will visit more cities and states than last year, is tailored to both new and experienced technicians. It covers the description, operation, and service elements for the total range of components found within dual air brake systems. Topics include:

  • Fundamentals of compressed air
  • Tactics for air system failure mode diagnosis and troubleshooting
  • Air brake system and foundation brake components (air compressors, valves, foundation drum brakes, and air disc brakes)

“The Advanced Technology Training class is an exciting new addition to our training curriculum; it picks up where the Air Brake Training course ends, covering the operation and troubleshooting of higher-level driver assistance and safety systems, as well as diagnostic software,” said Lance Hansen, Bendix North America regional vice president – fleet/trailer sales and service engineering. “As adoption of these complex technologies increases, it’s more important than ever to make sure the teams responsible for keeping North America’s commercial vehicles operating safely are equipped with the knowledge they need. Our new Advanced Technology Training is a real must for the advanced technician.”

Some of the systems addressed in the Advanced Technology Training course are:

  • AutoVue Lane Departure Warning System from Bendix CVS
  • Bendix ACom diagnostic software
  • Bendix ESP Electronic Stability Program
  • Bendix Wingman Advanced and Bendix Wingman Fusion driver assistance systems
  • SafetyDirect by Bendix CVS
  • SmarTire and SmarTire Trailer-Link TPMS by Bendix CVS

Hansen noted that class time in the Advanced Technology Training session includes in-depth, hands-on maintenance for Bendix air disc brakes and electrical diagnostics.

To help address the increasing demand for service training, Bendix has doubled its technical training force.

In addition, 29 Air Brake Training sessions – each conducted by a member of the ASE-certified veteran Bendix Service Engineering Team – are scheduled in 25 locations across the U.S. from February to November.

The nine Advanced Technology Training courses will be held from March to December, split between Sparks, Nevada, and the Bendix headquarters in Elyria, Ohio.

Per-person enrollment costs are $400 USD for Air Brake Training and $350 USD for Advanced Technology Training.

Because of the quantity and complexity of the products covered, Bendix highly recommends that each student completes the Bendix Air Brake Training (three-day) class, or at minimum, the online brake school at brake-school.com, before taking the Advanced Technology Training class.

“Both classes include hands-on exercises as well as classroom training and extensive visual demonstration aids. At most locations, the Bendix team will also be able to utilize operational demonstration boards that essentially put a fully operational air system right at the students’ fingertips,” Hansen said. “This training is another way in which Bendix is working with the industry to shape tomorrow’s transportation together.”

Registration is free for the Bendix On-Line Brake School, which offers an extensive, regularly updated curriculum covering all aspects of electronics and air brake maintenance. Since its launch in March 2013, the training portal (www.brake-school.com) has registered nearly 70,000 users from more than two dozen countries.

Class size for the 2019 in-person Bendix training courses is limited, and enrollment is on a first-come, first-served basis.

Registration may be completed online at www.bendix.com or www.foundationbrakes.com; by phone at 1-800-AIR-BRAKE, option 3; by email at BendixTrainingSchool@hkm.dcgcentral.com; or via fax (216-651-3261).

For a full listing of locations and dates, click here.

 

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