Dubai hopes new system puts brakes on trucking troubles

Dubai recently began installing a new high-tech system in heavy trucks in an effort to improve traffic safety and lower the rate of road accidents.

The system, which is being tested from February to July, is expected to become mandatory for some trucks on August 1.

"Trucks will be subject to remote monitoring through the Smart Monitoring Centre of the Licensing Agency,” Ahmed Hashem Bahrozyan, CEO of the Licensing Agency of Dubai's Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), said. “Technical inspectors at the center will be able to communicate with road patrols of the Dubai Police and RTA to enforce the law against violating vehicles.”

Bahrozyan told the Emirates News Agency that the monitoring system will look at a driver's hours spent behind the wheel as well as actions like sudden braking and speeding. Dangerous acceleration and reckless driving will also be evaluated.

Trucking companies that don’t comply might eventually find their vehicles denied a renewal, Bahrozyan said.

Calls and e-mails to the Dubai RTA were not returned by press time, but the Gulf News Journal spoke with American truck driving professional Rich Sherman to gain some insight into how the system could affect the drivers and the trucking business, both in Dubai and elsewhere.

“I think something like this kind of monitoring system could probably hurt the industry,” Sherman said.

Sherman said that in the course of their regular routine, some drivers might technically violate standards without being unsafe. They then could lose their commercial driver’s licenses.

In his experience, Sherman said, systems that are meant to protect actually can cause more problems. One example is the Department of Transportation's rules on the number of hours a trucker can be on the road without a break. They must keep log books to show compliance. The problem, he says, is that you are still expected to complete your quota of deliveries.

“What that logbook makes me do is push to get home,” Sherman said. “If you don't get all of these runs done -- it's not even worth your time."

Sherman also questioned the accuracy of monitoring systems in general. In some cases, he said, existing monitoring software could provide information that doesn't accurately reflect a situation. For example, a driver might have to suddenly brake in traffic to avoid collisions, but what the system sees is the driver doing something wrong.

“If I break hard or turn hard, it'll record that,” Sherman said. “It’ll pop up.” 

He says he also has seen systems detect some mistakes and miss others.

The move in Dubai echoes other strategies in a general push to equip trucking, a very logistics-oriented industry, with new tech tools for general observation and optimization. Some are chronicled in leading industry publications like Trucks.com and show how the tech frontier is coming to the trucking world.



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