The Truck Stop of the Future
Technology is often born of crisis, not because it is the correct thing to do. Take for instance the knowledge of Alternative Fuel has been around for years yet the general public is just now becoming aware of it.
Recently, I watched some old news reel footage of Henry Ford and George Washington Carver from the 1940’s where Henry Ford took a bat to a prototype vehicle that ran on ethanol and was made from soybean plastics.
Clearly there has always been an awareness that the facet of oil would run dry but back then it was simply more cost effective to shelve the idea of alternative fuels, but for how long and at what long term price?
We are now facing that dilemma as big automakers have had to dust off the hidden technology which they should have done without being forced. Instead they waited until the walls tumbled down upon them and all of America.
Now these same issues are coming to bear on the trucking industry where a number of neglected issues are about to challenge the desire to conduct “business as usual” mentalities.
We all watched the automotive industry that had to be “persuaded” to understand that the right thing and crisis are upon us now.
America is suffering in a way many of us have never before experienced. The heyday of hand over fist profit is over for the time being, we need to work on solutions.
We shipped our jobs away, we buy goods from other countries who don’t like us and we think we can still have our cake and eat it too.
The truth is new technologies bring forth new industries which this country desperately needs. Any businessman who has built an empire from the ground up will tell you to create something new requires risk, investment, determination.
None of the above comes in a pretty package with a cherry on top. This means hard work and anyone who resists the change that is upon us right now to save this country from the mess we have put ourselves in is not doing their patriotic duty.
The trucking industry is one of America’s last Industries on our soil, or is it?
The future for trucking is exciting with many new opportunities depending on how you view things. Is the glass half empty, or half full? Will work be involved? Effort? Money?
Natural Gas provides a way we can move into the future of alternative fuels NOW not when the clock runs out. Hybrid Engines, Solar Auxiliary Power Units (APU)that will put an end to idle emissions are just some of the innovations that will be the future of trucking like it or not.
We have passed the point of keeping things on the shelf because we are at the crossroads of necessity so we have a choice to make new industries for ourselves or let some other countries do it for us who are eager while we stand around and bicker with each other.
About the only argument anyone can offer about why they don’t support Natural Gas is because it will cost money. Just like labor costs money so we shipped our jobs to people who do our jobs for us. Just like American products that everyone wants really cheap so we stopped making stuff here. What we got for those decisions was a $5 4th of July T-Shirt made in Pakistan, Ecuador and India. We got poison lead on children’s toys made in places that make powdered milk for their own people that harm their own babies. But we got it cheap.
It’s not that we don’t have solutions right now, it’s because we tolerate feet draggers who stall inevitable progress by hemming and hawing and whining while capitalists in other countries seize upon our growing ineffectiveness, our petty arguing trying to make our bottom line look better. Now we come to find out those inflated bottom lines were lies also.
Once upon a time in America we created new jobs, others disappeared such as the man whose job it was to light to street lamps at night. What was that man to do when that darn electric bulb was invented?
You cannot undo innovations, inventions and new technology. Progress is coming to solve our energy woes, but you can miss the boat of opportunity. Who among us is wasting precious time to act upon the numerous new avenues of industry that can now be explored?
I am no scientist, I’m just a truck driver but it’s plain to me that we are our own worst enemies when it comes to adapting to change.
Do you recall the “Monsanto House of the Future”? It was an attraction at Disneyland in Anaheim, California from 1957 to 1967, remember that? I don’t, I wasn’t even born yet but I read about this “House of the Future” set in the year 1986 that had such crazy contraptions like a box that cooked your dinner in 60 seconds!
Microwaves, another technology that sat around since the 1940’s but did not experience rapid growth until the 70’s when Japan figured out how to make the American Innovation profitable.
I think you get the picture.
The question is: Who is for American Innovation and profit? and Who is just out to make profits for themselves forsaking America’s longevity in this time of crisis?
As I have traveled around this past year in various truck stops and visited truck shows I see the trending theme is “GREEN”.
Jump on the “Green Trucking” bandwagon, lets us all sing, hold hands and be partners.
But who is really onboard?
I am and I see ton’s of opportunity for many not just the few who have had the oligopoly up to now.
Perhaps that is the problem, some don’t want to share the new pie that is coming out of the oven?
I don’t see socialism, I see avenues for new entrepreneurs and forward thinking minds to make money from a crisis that is not tapping our shoulder anymore, it is thumping us on our heads.
One common objection I hear about natural gas in 18-wheelers is: “There aren’t enough fueling sites”. DING DANG! Opportunity! Hello Naysayers remember when they sold Ethel and Supreme at the filling station?
Perhaps NATSO, the National Association of Truck Stop Owners should add Natural gas to their product line like they did when “ULSD” came out?
What about drivers? I am a company driver; I drive what my company gives me to drive. That is a freightliner with no APU so I have to idle in extreme weather conditions so I can sleep.
I don’t like to Idle, I don’t want to send emissions into the air but I don’t want to suffocate or freeze to death either.
What’s the solution? I can’t force my company to but me an APU, why wouldn’t they want to invest in an entire fleet of Natural Gas Semi’s with Solar APU’s like “Kool Rig APU”
I am left to be responsible to pay to idle even though I am an employee. I am left to pay the citation if I idle in a city like Dallas or in California where new idle laws affect drivers not the companies.
My company can charge me to idle or I can pay to go to Idleaire which is a truck parking area that you pay for outside temperature control and power while you are parked.
The problem is that I shouldn’t have to pay because I am an employee.
Idleaire is also outdated and needs a facelift; it needs to be reenergized into the 21st century in the same manner our infrastructure and Truck manufacturers need to move into the future,
In my “Green Idea” I talk about parking that has been specially designed for bobtail tractors to plug into a unit to warm the engine block in winter.
I ask questions like: Why are Recreational Vehicles provided with “Shore Power” units in specially designed parking areas so they do not have to idle but not for commercial vehicles?
Truck manufacturers who are addressing the growing demand to create hybrid engines and natural gas trucks should be exploring built in temperature control units that simply need to be plugged into the existing Idleaire scaffolding.
The existing structure could be retrofitted for Solar and Wind power with a pull down cord that plugs directly into the tractor just as an RV would. This would do away with the cumbersome outdated forced air system.
Just as the “House of the Future” became outdated by 1967 at Disneyland, the Idleaire concept needs fresh ideas. Today’s drivers have cell phones, laptops, and WIFI or air cards. Most only need temperature control and some electricity.
Also, in extreme weather the engine block is not protected from freezing by using the Idleaire system.
Truck Parking is an issue; Safety and security of cargo as well as the driver’s life are at risk. Especially during the economic downturn we are experiencing now. This fact has become more evident with the murder of Trucker Jason Rivenburg who parked in an abandoned gas station awaiting his delivery appointment in South Carolina and was shot for $7 that was on his dashboard.
The resulting legislation that has been introduced called “Jason’s Law” HR 2156 & S 971 again offers more opportunities, depending on where you stand.
Safety and Security should be in the forefront of our minds right now, not our personal individual pocketbooks. If you stand to lose a little then use your brain to figure out how to make more in another way because now is the time.
Who is not for Safety and Security? Who is against getting us off foreign oil? Why? Greed? Let’s expose them because if money is the only thing that motivates them they are not seeing the big picture of other opportunities that will spring forth from these changes.
Work will be required, thought and effort.
Whoever is not on this bandwagon is not thinking about the long-term future of this country as a whole, they are only thinking about themselves.
The American people deserve to know who the problem is and who wants to be part of the solution.
Let’s stop forming committees and partnerships to fool each other. This is really just waste of time and money because we are talking about saving our country.
Trucks move everything we use in our daily lives, even when it was made overseas. We know the rail system is being rehabbed in some areas and that eventually long haul trucking will shrink and have to adapt into a regional system.
We know we have energy issues, we have emissions regulations, and we have cheap labor issues.
Regardless of whether the long haul trucker wants to adapt to these changes they should understand there are still opportunities for them also.
If big trucking want to drag their feet to buy natural gas fleets then Owner –Operators should see it as an opportunity to receive special incentives to adapt first. Perhaps even regain some of the strength they once had.
It’s much easier to afford to buy one truck than an entire fleet that’s for sure but wouldn’t the shippers and receivers be in support of the Natural Gas Act and Support those Truckers who invest in America’s long-term future?
What about the truck stops? What can they offer besides Natural Gas? How about parking spaces designed by truckers that are actually suitable to park, not just lines on pavement. Poor planning and design makes a number of wasted spaces which are not accessible because the adjacent spot interferes with it, yet these spaces are counted on paper.
We have to admit that industrial planning is lacking, the unsupervised criminal activities and lack of attention to premises is why truck stops have a bad image. Despite the vain attempts rebrand themselves as “Travel Plazas” to appeal to all travelers. This is a good first step but more effort is needed.
Instead of spending money to hinder the passage of a safe trucker parking bill, perhaps thinking of ways to lure people into truck stops besides “up selling” 2 for 1 milk duds to every customer? How about clean toilets, no solicitors banging on the doors at night? After all, a well rested driver is a safe driver.
How about a fenced dog run area for trucking companions who need a stretch, parking spaces appropriate for flatbeds, car haulers, oversize and Bobtails. I’ve recently seen Starbucks hang up a shingle inside some truck stops as they close some free standing stores to cut costs, I’ve noticed chiropractor, massage therapists and sometimes a barber shop springing up as a rented space. With the growing number of women truckers and female companions who ride along I’m surprised no one has seen the many opportunities to market items to this new demographic. Spending time in a truck stop could mean days but little is offered except unhealthy food, crime and disturbances.
Smartphones save truckers an enormous amount of trip planning time. Applications like google maps and the new iPhone trucker application make life on the road easier by making it easy to locate scales, services and places to go in-between loads. I use a Smartphone myself to locate parking in a shopping plaza in-between loads where I can find a nail salon, a Starbucks and a decent restaurant.
What about all the topless joints along the highway that provide trucker parking and a place for a lonely trucker to relax and spend money?
The same little lady who rents space to do a massage at a truck stop may find just as much additional business with a shiatsu massaging chair and a pedicure for the ladies or men for that matter.
Last summer while getting a pedicure by an Asian man he said to me “Do you live around here?” and I said “No, I’m just visiting” and he said “Oh, then you must be a truck driver?” he already knew because he sees the opportunities as more female truckers come in from some downtime.
The times have changed, we can only go forward now and develop new industries. We need to pinpoint who is preventing our success from moving into the future because this is not just a whim or a fad.
We need to save our country, we need to do our own work and invest in our future. Who is for America and who is not? That’s what I want to know, don’t you?
** I wrote this post originally on “Pickens Plan” in August 2009 where a Trucking Discussion Group has been set up and ALL are invited to learn more about Natural Gas and Big Trucks … It is our Future (PS: it was promptly “Borrowed”" also so if you have heard some of these ideas elsewhere …. Um , I am an Inventor, Creator … I don’t have to borrow and steal. I have a good brain.)