'Unsinkable' thinking sure to sink technology

By Jami Jones, managing editor

Mention the Titanic and it's hard to find a person who doesn't know the story of the sinking of the ship.

"I cannot imagine any condition which would cause a ship to founder. I cannot conceive of any vital disaster happening to this vessel. Modern shipbuilding has gone beyond that." Those were the words of Titanic Captain Edward Smith before the ship embarked on its maiden and fateful voyage.

Mark Lach, who is creative director of Premier Exhibitions, saw the Titanic on the ocean floor in 2000 on one of the recovery missions. He said in a recent MSN article that the story of the Titanic resonates more than 100 years later because themes like overconfidence in technology are still applicable.

That statement really hits home when you think of technology and trucking.

Right now we have Congress who seems to think it's a good idea to give motor carriers a chance to buy their way into favorable safety scores with the "Beyond Compliance" program. Sure there are those who say it's not just about technology, but read the congressional language. Technology is certainly center stage.

Then we have the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration moving ahead with proposed regs on speed limiters. Yeah, slowing trucks down even more in fast-moving traffic is a stellar idea. No chance there will be an increase in the number of rear-end crashes into trailers with that idea. (Sarcasm intended.)

Oh yeah, and electronic logs. You know those things that drivers will have to tell what they are doing when the truck is stopped. Just like they have to write it down now. That surely will solve all hours-of-service noncompliance.

But wait, there's more. Collision-avoidance systems, autonomous trucks.

The rush to technology feels like a tsunami about to wash over the trucking industry.

Boastful claims of eliminating noncompliance and improving safety are just that - claims. The research still isn't there, but that doesn't seem to be stopping the arrogant thinking that technology is here to solve all our woes.

Captain Edwards would likely disagree. LL