Given that vocational trucks represented less than 6% of new Class 8 vehicle registrations in 2017, the niche nature of the market means innovations are slow to catch on here. But that said, more and more technologies initially developed for on-road fleets are now migrating to vocational trucks.
As an older generation of drivers is phasing out of the workforce, a younger generation is replacing them with a modern outlook that readily embraces technology to improve drivability, safety and overall job-related performance. From a fleet management point of view, their adoption affords long-term benefits that reduce operational costs and retain a healthy and experienced workforce for the long term.
Safety-related specs are one of several technology-backed innovations that can be applied to vocational trucks and are currently a major area of interest:
ADVANCED VEHICLE SAFETY
Working in closed urban neighborhoods and sharing busy, congested road space with an increasing number of passenger cars, safety is one of the most pressing concerns with vocational trucks these days.
As of now, over-the-road fleets definitely have an advantage over vocational ones when it comes to advanced safety specs like tire pressure management systems, active driving systems, automatic braking, human detection systems, side-looking vehicle detection systems etc.
Features such as these, which would make vocational trucks safer on the roads, especially for young, inexperienced operators, are still not so commonplace that you can spec them easily from OEMs.
But that day is soon coming.
Vocational trucks often work in more dynamic, unpredictable and congested environments than long-haul trucks, and the more safety features they can be fortified with the better it’s going to look for a business’ bottomline with less chances of accidents, injuries, escalating healthcare and insurance costs etc.
AUTOMATIC AND AUTOMATED TRANSMISSIONS
The manual gearbox is getting antiquated in vocational fleets – especially in medium-duty applications where driving is only a part of the job.
Automated and automatic transmissions are already here, and definitely the way of the future, as the workforce gets younger and new drivers find it easier to transition safely into the job with less intensive training. Thanks to these two-pedal transmissions, there is one less distraction on the road, not to mention less physical fatigue that usually results from clutching and shifting a manual transmission.
And it isn’t just improved driver health and safety that reduces maintenance costs in the long run either.
Automatic and automated transmissions are offering application-related features that are congruent with the very specific needs of construction companies, road pavers, cement mixers and other vocations in which old-timer operators have traditionally been biased in favor of three pedals to get tasks done.
The amazing versatility of these transmissions on jobsites and on highways mean less burnt-out clutches and broken axles, improved vehicle maneuverability, fuel economy etc. – which all add up to make fleet management more robust and operationally less expensive in the long run.