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Technology is Rapidly Transforming Iowa’s Trucking Industry

This news story was published on May 23, 2018.
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The trucking industry is in the middle of upheaval, and the changes are occurring on many fronts. And technology is having a huge impact in the Iowa trucking industry in particular. Let’s take a closer look at how technological advances are transforming Iowa’s trucking industry for better or for worse. We’ll also address some of the reasons behind these changes.

Electronic Logging

Paper logs for tracking drivers’ time became disallowed at the end of 2017. Instead, a device connected to the engine tracks their driving hours. Truckers are allowed a 14 hour work window, but they’re only allowed to spend 11 hours behind the wheel. And they have to take a break after eight hours behind the wheel. There are limited exceptions in circumstances involving agriculture.

The electronic logs allow for faster and accurate tracking, and they make it easier to share records regarding a trucker’s duty status. Conversely, some trucking companies say the rules have created an inflexible work environment that disrupts truckers’ sleep patterns and may incentivize driving too fast to get somewhere within the time limits.

In other cases, the logging hurts companies’ productivity, such as when a driver is sitting in a truck waiting for their turn to offload at a job site or waiting for a manufacturer to load the vehicle. That time counts against the 14 hour work window though the driver isn’t driving. The issue may be driving many older drivers to leave the profession.

New Approach to Training

The trucking industry is currently facing a nationwide shortage. Trucking schools are introducing new technology to better meet the needs of students. It is now possible to attend truck driving school and spend more time inside the school than inside a truck. Truck driving schools are starting to install simulation labs.

The simulators like the one installed at Iowa Central’s trucking school let students practice on a wide array of vehicles, on different types of terrain and any weather condition the simulator can replicate. While students could practice driving a big rig through deep snow, a more common application is letting students learn how to shift. Now they get to practice shifting gears without tearing up a real truck. The simulators look like a truck, down to a front windshield, side windows and mirrors like a truck.

Advances in technology may aid in the driver shortage. For example, better training is thought to improve the retention of drivers, since people who barely know how to drive a truck are prone to being fired. Employers are favoring candidates with significant training, too, given the high cost of equipment and insurance.

One shift in the industry itself is tuition reimbursement for driving students. In some cases, students can get paid while training for their commercial driving license. You can learn more about this at trucker

Environmental Rules

Stricter emissions standards are impacting the trucking industry. One shift is toward automatic transmissions in new trucks. Some trucking companies are shifting to vehicles that burn cleaner fuels. It is understandable for environmental regulations to be aimed at the trucking industry. Trucking is a 600 billion dollar industry and around 75% of volume is delivered literally by the truckload.


While self-driving vehicles won’t render truckers obsolete and probably never will, technology is altering how truckers do their jobs. Regulatory pressure is driving some changes, while industry pressures are contributing to others.

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