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 Albert 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.