Last Updated: Mon, February 4, 2019
Highway cargo robbery of big rig trucks is becoming big business for the Mexican cartel and, now, an increasingly in-demand business for those who provide armoring service for trucking companies.
During 2018, truck robberies in Mexico were reported at the staggering number of 11,062 ... some 33 cargo robberies per day! Robbers speed alongside a tractor-trailer rig, box it in and force it to halt. Then they spray the cab with automatic rifle fire, and make off with the cargo.
To combat this trend truck companies are contracting with companies to build-in armor plating around the cab and to replace windows with bullet-proof glass. Also, as robbers are using the truck steps to access the cab once they have pulled over the tractor, part of the refitting process is to install retractable steps once the driver is inside.
Besides driver safety and protection of the cargo, companies have incentive to provide this kind of refitting because insurance companies are reluctant these days to insure a high-value cargo -- often worth millions of dollars -- unless the companies have demonstrated they have taken measures to protect it from highway robbery.
It costs about $29,000 for this kind of protection and, overall, Mexican truck companies spend an average of 6 percent of their revenues on security, compared to just .5 percent of all other trucking firms worldwide.
About that, one trucking spokesman says, "It’s expensive. It’s very expensive. But insurance companies are demanding armored equipment for shipments worth more than a certain amount."
As autonomous driving is looking in the near future to become mainstream, at least one expert predicts it would be better being a truck driver than an airline pilot.
“I don’t recommend becoming a commercial pilot as a career.” So says Mary Cummings, a former Navy jet fighter pilot who now has a Ph.D in systems engineering while directing the Humans and Autonomy Lab at Duke University.
Her reasoning is that aviation is already highly automated, requiring pilots to make only "quarterback moves" that require expertise. But, that "almost everything in the process can be automated. We will see fully automated airline freight long before we’ll see driverless commercial trucks," she said.
She said that the point where autonomous trucks can do everything and require the "driver" to only sit in the vehicle are a lot farther in the future than proponents of autonomous big rigs would have us believe. She likens it to being at the kindergarten stage for driverless cars.
For the immediate future, trucking jobs are safe from total robot takeover. Driver interaction and equipment will change with the progression of autonomous technology, but according to Cummings, the time scale is probably longer than most people think.
Good news for every driver who has spent countless hours in search of an empty, 2018 was a record year for new trailer orders.
Despite a December dropoff in orders, 2018 closed with some 410,000 new trailers being ordered to supply the nation's fleets. And better news yet is that 2019 orders are flying in with the highest orderboard in history, committing dry vans and reefers well into the fourth quarter.
One industry spokesman, Frank Maly, ACT’s director of commercial vehicle transportation analysis and research, explained that the 39 percent downturn in December orders compared to November's may be that trailer manufacturers were holding off on taking new orders because they were looking at a year-long backlog in 2019.
So, the big fleets are having their requirements met, and the small to medium fleets are searching for the remaining build slots, based on their expected needs in the second half of the year, says Don Ake, FTR vice president of commercial vehicles.
This is all good news to drivers who must spend countless hours in the search of that elusive "mty."
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