From driver to transport manager – premiere in the cockpit of the future

Already today, drivers are supported by comfortably equipped, climatised cabs, assistance systems such as Proximity Control Assist, Stop-and-Go Assist and fully automated transmissions.
Dr. Ing. Klaus Ruff, deputy head of prevention at the trade association for commercial transport, says it clearly: "The working day of a truck driver is demanding and stressful: the need for constant attention, monotony on long journeys, often unclear situations in dense traffic, constant noise, day and night shifts are just some of the aspects. Modern assistance systems relieve driver stress and therefore help to improve traffic safety. Despite higher traffic densities and an approx. 80 percent increase in transport volume in the road goods traffic sector, the number of road users killed or seriously injured in accidents involving trucks has been reduced by almost half. There are many indications that further development of such assistance systems and their intelligent networking will continue this positive trend in the future."
Truckers have long placed great confidence in these stress-relieving assistance systems, and use them as a matter of course. Because irregular working hours, a sedentary occupation and mental stresses take an above-average toll in this profession, subjecting truck drivers to serious health risks. Mercedes-Benz already minimises these professional risks with its excellently equipped trucks today, and is the trailblazer not only in the goods transport sector, but in the entire commercial vehicle industry, when it comes to ergonomic and comfortable cockpit design and a high level of active safety thanks to intelligent assistance and telematic systems. A technological lead that is also paving the way for autonomous driving.
In many situations autonomous driving relieves the driver of "having to" drive, especially on tiring and often monotonous long-distance routes. As the truck regulates its own speed and automatically finds the best route using a navigation app, and because the transport company, dispatcher and goods recipient are constantly informed about the location, route and expected time of arrival in real time, the driver is relieved of time pressure. Today this is a major stress factor for drivers.
Dr. Ing. Klaus Ruff: "Autonomous driving will inevitably also change the job profile of truck drivers. It relieves from the immediate control of the truck: This saves resources for other activities such as social interaction or relaxation phases. Autonomous driving will make the driver's working time more varied and less stressful, and help to make long-distance driving more attractive as a profession. Only time will tell whether it can solve the major current problem, the shortage of drivers."
Mobile office in the Future Truck 2025
With the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 the driver is not only relieved of monotonous chores, but also gains time for other tasks or for communication with the outside world. To do this the driver switches from "workplace steering wheel" to "workplace office". Activities might include tasks that were previously the preserve of dispatchers, or social contact with friends, family and colleagues. Owner drivers in particular can do their office work conveniently while on the move if needed, no longer working in the evenings or on weekends, and without delegation to others. The magic words are connectivity and networking. The "Highway Pilot" system is "always on" if required. Invoicing the last transport assignment or completing last month's VAT return while on the move – no longer a fantasy for the future, but reality.
Carrying out further activities will significantly change the professional profile of the truck driver. This will in turn give rise to opportunities for advancement from the purely driving role to transport manager. For the dispatchers and customers of a freight forwarding company, the driver will therefore change from a transporter and machine operator to a qualified transport manager, upgrading the entire profession. The profession of truck driver will become more attractive – autonomous driving is therefore also a compelling answer to the shortage of drivers.
Using electronic media, the driver is also able to conveniently communicate with other people. Drivers can e.g. make arrangements to meet for a break, make appointments, obtain information about the traffic situation or loading and unloading points, or attend to private matters. The many possibilities for social activities are another important benefit of autonomous driving.
One of these is the ability to reserve a parking space in a service area or truckstop while on the move. The driver will be able to take a look at the online menu in advance, reserve a washroom and order a meal for the appropriate time. An acknowledgement is sent directly to the cab, including the parking space number and time.
Much more relaxed driving will have a positive effect on the health of drivers. The stress factors involved in purely driving activities on Europe's arterial roads will be considerably reduced. The change in seating position during autonomous driving also means that the driver is no longer condemned to the same posture, but gains freedom of movement and can even perform light relaxation exercises while on the move.
With autonomous driving, the truck and its driver become a team more than ever before, an intelligent, highly capable and cost-effective combination of man and machine.