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New drivers need to stop leaning on GPS, develop navigational skills, trainer says



Eddy Mullins has been training drivers for JB Hunt for 18 years, and he says new drivers are coming to him today with less and less in the way of navigational skills due to their over-reliance on GPS technology. (Courtesy: EDDY MULLINS)

Doesn’t it sometimes seem like people in trucking are constantly asking, “What direction is this industry headed?”

That’s a complicated question that encompasses a lot of long-range topics. Who can see that far ahead?

For now, Eddy Mullins is more concerned about drivers who can’t tell what direction their own trucks are headed.

Mullins has been training truck drivers for JB Hunt since 1999, shortly before GPS and smartphones exploded onto the market and changed how drivers navigate, or rather how they let themselves be navigated.

“When you sit up high in a truck, you can see people, those GPS’s everywhere,” Mullins said. “I see people who look lost, like they’re just waiting for that voice to say, ‘turn right in 500 feet.’

“Don’t get me wrong, I love my technology,” he added. “I’ve got my phone, I’ve got a tablet, I’ve got a bunch of electronic gadgets. But some things, you still need to do it the old way.”

But in the last few years, Mullins has noticed his job getting tougher, as new drivers are coming to him lacking skills that would have been almost taken for granted a generation ago.

“I started driving in 1995,” Mullins said. “When I first started we spent three whole days in class learning how to read a map and trip plan.

“Nowadays, they just say, ‘put the address in the GPS and go.’ I’ve trained some fairly new drivers and they’re like, ‘map? What’s a map? They never taught us that.’”

Maybe even more disturbing is that many new drivers seem to lack skills that are even more basic.

“I’ll ask them, ‘OK, the way we’re standing here right now, which direction are we facing? No, no, put the phone down. Which direction are we facing? If the sun rises over there, what does that tell you about what direction we’re facing?”

Part of Mullins’ job has become convincing new drivers not to be GPS dependent. ”I tell them, the GPS is only a tool,” he said. “You still need to plan your trips and don’t blindly rely on that thing. It can and will get you in trouble.”

Nearly anyone who’s used a GPS with any frequency has experienced some kind of snafu – the instruction to turn when there isn’t a road there, being taken around the block for no apparent reason, the sudden unannounced recalculation.

Yet people still hand navigational responsibility to their GPS, sometimes over their own senses and common sense. Occasionally, drivers who’ve taken this behavior to the extreme make the news after driving or almost driving into lakes, over cliffs and off roads and bridges that were closed for construction.

Mullins collects these stories along with pictures of trucks whose drivers allowed a GPS to lead them into embarrassing and sometimes dangerous situations to show his trainees.

“They’ll say, ‘what’s he doing on that walking path?’ I’ll say, ‘he was following his GPS. ‘What’s he doing on the [Atlantic City] boardwalk in a truck?’ ‘He was following his GPS. See what I’m getting at?’”

One common element to all of these stories is the drivers try to blame their predicament on the GPS. In many of these cases, the stories describe how the driver ignored warning signs, flashing lights and barricades in order to follow the machine’s verbal commands.

Mullins has seen and heard the same from drivers he’s trained. “They’re so focused on listening to that voice, they’re not aware of their surroundings. Like there’s a low bridge coming up, or, wait a minute, this is a neighborhood, what’s a truck doing in a neighborhood? ‘But the GPS says go this way.’ What about those big signs that say, ‘no trucks’?”

Researchers have shown that the saying, “it isn’t the destination, it’s the journey that matters” takes on new meaning when it comes to GPS use and its effect on drivers. There are definite use-it-or-lose it consequences from overreliance on the devices.

In 2016, a study at University College London compared brain activity between drivers given turn-by-turn instructions from a GPS and drivers on their own. The study found that when drivers used their own senses, there was a spike in activity in the parts of the brain responsible for navigation and planning.

No such increase in brain activity was recorded in the drivers who simply followed GPS directions.

Other studies have indicated that the more people depend on technology to lead them around, the less they retain their natural ability to navigate on their own, much the way muscles weaken from lack of exercise. A 2006 study of London cab drivers who’d navigated that city’s complicated streets for years found these drivers had above-average development in the area of the brain that processes spatial representation. The study also suggested that this pumped-up part of the brain starts to diminish once the drivers retire.

One of the key problems with GPS is its focus on an A-to-B route.  The driver’s task is reduced to doing what the voice tells him to do. At this level of disengagement, the driver’s mind is prevented from what is called cognitive mapping, a combination of instinct and intellect that humans normally use to find their way around.

In the automotive age, cognitive mapping often begins with studying an actual map, plotting out a route, noting the towns you’ll pass through, the natural and manmade landmarks you’ll encounter.

Memory, vision and other cognitive functions all come into play while driving – reading the road signs, noting the landscape, creating your own mental landmarks.

Mullins advice to younger, beginning drivers is to take the time to learn how to use a map and an atlas along with your GPS. Learn the little things, too. He runs into many young drivers who were never taught that interstates with odd numbers run north-south, while those with even number run east-west. It’s these little things that can help you find your bearings when the tools have steered you wrong.

Even for veteran drivers, he said, it’s a good idea to check yourself now and then to make sure you haven’t fallen into the bad habit of blindly following that placid mechanical voice.

“Nothing is 100 percent,” he said.  It’s still important to use the navigational tools you were born with because maps and atlases can be flawed, just like GPS instructions.

And if all else fails, he said, there’s an old-school, all-but-forgotten trick he learned back when he was a beginner and would get lost from time to time.

“It’s called stopping and asking the locals for directions.”

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NHTSA issues ANPRM on camera monitoring systems as alternative to mirrors



Last December, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration granted an exemption requested by Stoneridge Inc. allowing its MirrorEye CMS to be installed as an alternative to conventional rear-vision mirrors currently required on commercial motor vehicles in the United States. (Courtesy: STONERIDGE INC.)

WASHINGTON — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking that could eventually lead to camera-based rear visibility systems, commonly referred to as camera monitoring systems (CMS) as an alternative to inside and outside rearview mirrors.

The federal motor vehicle safety standard currently requires that vehicles be equipped with rearview mirrors to provide drivers with a view of objects that are to their side or to their side and rear.

In a notice published in the Federal Register Thursday, NHTSA said the ANPRM responds to two rulemaking petitions: one pertaining to light vehicles from the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and Tesla and one from Daimler Trucks North America relating to heavy vehicles.

The agency said the ANPRM builds on the agency’s prior efforts to obtain supporting technical information, data, and analysis on CMS so that the agency can determine whether these systems can provide the same level of safety as the rearview mirrors currently required under federal regulations.

There is already some development underway in the CMS arena.

Last December, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration granted an exemption requested by Stoneridge Inc., allowing its MirrorEye CMS to be installed as an alternative to conventional rear-vision mirrors. The exemption applies solely to Stoneridge’s MirrorEye system, making it the only CMS that allows for complete removal of traditional mirrors in the United States, Stonebridge said in a news release.

In issuing the ANPRM Thursday, NHTSA acknowledged that part of its responsibility in carrying out its safety mission is not only to develop and set new safety standards for new motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment, but also to modify existing standards, as appropriate, to respond to changing circumstances such as the introduction of new technologies.

“Examples of previous technological transitions that triggered the need to adapt and/or replace requirements in federal safety regulations include the replacing of analog dashboards by digital ones, the replacing of mechanical control systems by electronic ones, and the first production of electric vehicles in appreciable numbers,” the Federal Register notice said.

The agency said it was publishing the ANPRM to gather information and receive feedback to enable the agency to decide whether (and if so, how) to propose amending federal regulations on rear visibility to permit camera-based systems as an alternative compliance option in lieu of outside rearview mirrors or in lieu of all rearview mirrors, both inside and outside ones. Specifically, NHTSA said, it hoped the ANPRM, through the public comment process, will provide the agency with additional safety-related research and data to support a potential future rulemaking on this subject.

NHTSA said it was asking for information based on 21 questions among the following seven categories:

  • Existing industry standards
  • System field of view and related test procedures
  • Image quality and related test procedures
  • Rearview image display type related human factors
  • Side rearview image display locations, driver acclimation and related test procedures
  • Camera durability, reliability and related test procedures
  • System availability when vehicle ignition is off

The ANPRM can be found at, and on

The deadline for public comments is December 9.

To comment online, go to, follow the instruction on the site using docket number NHTSA–2018–0021.

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Transflo offers Samsung Galaxy Tablets running the Transflo Mobile+ Platform



Developed specifically for professional drivers, the Transflo Mobile+ app allows users to manage all their work from a single mobile app on one device. (Courtesy: TRANSFLO)

TAMPA, Fla. — As Transflo continues to grow its digital workflow platform for commercial truck fleets and drivers, the company now offers the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8-inch 32GB LTE tablet compatible with the Transflo Mobile+ app and all Transflo products and services, including the industry’s leading electronic logging device (ELD) for mobile platforms.

Drivers can easily access information including electronic records of duty status on the Galaxy’s clear, bright 8-inch touch display, and its LTE connectivity ensures seamless cloud integration and compliance with U.S. FMCSA regulations for wireless transfers of hours-of-service data.

“The Samsung Galaxy Tab A running the Transflo Mobile+ app is the perfect solution for anyone currently using our ELD or who is about to transition to one,” said Vice President of Product and Innovation Doug Schrier. “It’s the only device that fleets and drivers need to manage a mobile workflow and get more done, anywhere and everywhere the job takes them.”

Schrier said the Samsung Galaxy Tab A uses the Android operating system, has 32GB internal storage, dual cameras (for document scanning), and a 1.4GHz quad-core processor for a combination of fast performance and power efficiency. Transflo also offers a range of mounting and charging options to keep the device powered up and secure inside the cab.

Developed specifically for professional drivers, Schrier said the Transflo Mobile+ app allows users to manage all their work from a single mobile app on one device. Additionally, Transflo’s ELD bundles offer complete fleet solutions that integrate with the mobile app and include: document scanning; integrated GPS-based navigation; weigh station bypass technology; two-way messaging; and services for finding fuel, truck scales, and other essential services.

Transflo offers the Samsung Galaxy Tab A with data plans through AT&T and T-Mobile.

For more information about tablets and Transflo’s ELD bundles, please visit





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McLeod Software creates AI Truck Racing League for understanding machine learning



A McLeod Software official said his company believes its creation of the AI Truck Racing League as a learning tool is important and how it will be fun to see which company lifts the AITRL Champions Cup at the end of the inaugural season. (Courtesy: MCLEOD SOFTWARE)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — McLeod Software has created the AI Truck Racing League (AITRL), a new organization focused on advancing the understanding of Machine Learning technology in the transportation industry.

“Machine Learning is not yet widely understood by many, but to help companies gain a better understanding, we have set up a fun racing simulation as a way for companies to learn and participate. At McLeod Software, we realize Machine Learning is the future happening now. That is why we have created the AI Truck Racing League and the McLeod Software Racing Team,” said Vice President of Special Projects Ken Craig.

AITRL’s open platform enables member-racing teams to use industry standard cutting edge AI technologies. Developers can train, evaluate and tune their AI models using either Supervised Learning, Unsupervised Learning, Reinforcement Learning or any combination thereof.

Virtual world simulation will be done on AITRL’s website or locally at the racing team’s office. Teams will be able to select virtual trucks to race in the 3D simulator on tracks inspired by famous raceways. Each track will bring new challenges that the AI models need to conquer as they prepare for the AITRL Championship Cup.

Craig said the company invites transportation companies and allied suppliers to experience the excitement of racing mixed with the thrill of teaching an inanimate object how to think.

Each member of AITRL will have their own intra-company team which will train virtual trucks as they hone their AI models. Each member team will produce a champion by racing their virtually trained trucks on a virtual track with a 1/18 scale semi-truck. These champions will represent their member team in inter-company competitions and compete for the AITRL League Cup.

“We look forward to working with this great group of companies to advance the goal of understanding how Machine Learning will become both practical and efficient for transportation companies,” Craig said. “We work continuously to ensure that McLeod customers sustain a competitive advantage, and have full access to important technologies, developed by McLeod Software or our Partners. We believe our creation of AITRL as a learning tool is important for this reason, and it will be fun to see which company lifts the AITRL Champions Cup at the end of the inaugural season.”

Initial entrants fielding a racing team for the AITRL include Kingsgate Logistics, SONAR, Decker Truck Lines, and Echo Global Logistics.

To learn more about the AI Truck Racing League and how you can participate, please visit

McLeod Software is a provider of transportation and logistics ERP solutions. The company’s LoadMaster and PowerBroker products include CRM, dispatch operations, EDI, accounting, billing and settlements, carrier, driver and trip management, business process automation, visual workflow management, and document management systems, all specifically developed for trucking.

For more information about McLeod visit at

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