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Overdrive Extra

Jack Roberts

Freightliner pushes the technology envelope

| September 20, 2013
The Freightliner Cascadia Evolution is the next step toward the trucking industry reaching a 10 mpg standard.

The Freightliner Cascadia Evolution is the next step toward the trucking industry reaching a 10 mpg standard.

Not long ago, hard-boiled Union Men in overalls literally forged American trucks from molten metal. And those trucks, like the men who built them, were tough, uncompromising and rough around the edges. The interiors were basic. The seats were adequate, the transmissions incomprehensible to the uninitiated and luxuries unheard of: Maybe there’d be an AM radio with a mono speak crammed into the dash, cranked up to full volume and still losing the sonic battle to all the road noise reverberating through the cab.

But, starting next year, if you buy a new Freightliner Cascadia or Cascadia Evolution tractor, you can opt for something totally different in the dash where that old radio used to go: A tablet computer.

It’s called the Detroit Connect Tablet, and it does more than let drivers play Angry Birds when they’re cooling their heels back in the sleeper. The four apps the tablet comes pre-loaded with allow it to be fully-integrated with the truck and serve as the most advanced driver-to-vehicle interface I’ve seen yet 

The tablet comes ready-to-go with Truck-specific Navigation systems, Hours of Service, Direct Messaging and Pre/Post-trip inspection apps ready to go. Everything the modern driver needs to stay productive and compliant out on the road. And you can read the news story I wrote this week at the tablet’s unveiling in Detroit here.

The tablet concept drove home to me, yet again, just how involved in every aspect of trucking life, culture and realities companies like Freightliner have to be today in order to serve their customers. Simply banging a truck together and rolling it out of the factory doesn’t cut it anymore – and, frankly, hasn’t for some time.

Over the past few years, Freightliner has taken a deep dive into the lives of both fleets and drivers alike. And the products they’re producing today reflect what the company has learned. They’re pushing the envelope in ways that are interesting, thought-provoking and even sometimes controversial. As my recent ride with Aerodynamic Guru Henry Alber showed, there are some Old School Truckers out there that look down their noses at Freightliner’s vision of a future truck.

 But, the Freightliner Folks I know and talk with, are okay with that: They consider their brand a leader. And, as far as they’re concerned, taking fire is part of the deal when you’re out in front.

 Next year will be an important one for the continuing evolution of this industry. It will be interesting to see what additional tricks Freightliner has up its sleeve as their own brand evolution continues.


Read Jack Roberts’ account of his test-drive of the Cascadia Evolution powered by natural gas, and more about the Detroit Connect tablet here

  • guest

    Thats all real cute when our industry is being taken ober
    by Criminal illegal aliens hauling dope….Gang memebers in every truck…the industry is becoming a Nightmare…no wonder young people have Zero interst…trucking has become a pile of crap…the cops are helping to destroy the industry…bothering the working man while he allows 15 mexicans to race by hauling narcotics. What a sick joke.

  • Dr Duke

    Yup more computers that is just what we need. You will wind up with a rig that burns less fuel because it is in the shop all the time.

  • Colt

    Talk bout trucks getting into wrecks they gonna be more focus on the that tablet more than the road! Only crappy frightliner will do something like that! Trucking sure ain’t trucking no more when trucks were trucks miss thoughts days!

  • Indie Trucker

    The fact is this stuff isn’t going sway. For better or worse it will advance and improve with time. I really think we are going to see these companies start getting these emissions devices under control and start seeing an increase in reliability. There will be early adopters, and there will be the guys who continue to stay pre-emissions… some pre-electronic as long as fiscally possible. The problem the industry has faced is instead of years of research before dumping it out to the consumer, we all get to be the guinea pigs thanks to EPA. There are some really smart people though figuring things out, these companies can’t afford to keep shoveling out the warranty payments just as we can’t afford the downtime. This is just the next logical technological step…. I would like to see a owner version though that give the owner more specs and technical information on what is going on inside the truck.

  • Vaudreyvil

    “… when they’re GOING their heels back in the sleeper”? Oh that sneaky AutoCorrect!

  • Joker Jim

    As long as it displays in Russian, Chinese, Hindi and all the other languages the ‘new breed’ of driver speaks. Immigration reform? It’s alive & well in the transportation industry. To bad very few of them can drive.

  • Joker Jim

    I agree with the majority of your comment however, If the FMCSA doesn’t get real serious about minimal training standards AND increased enforcement of ALL the regs on ALL the carriers, the industry will continue to spiral downward. Technology is great but the one controlling the equipment has to have skill and experience. Computers are only as good as the one operating them.

  • The Crazy Trucker

    Nice. Might as well take technology by the horns. I understand that change is hard to swallow but there is not turning back. Way to go Frieghtliner, step out on faith! Some of those bed bugger will grab a few. strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.