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Dec. 11: Engineering Students Develop Tools To Help Truckers


Chriss Swaney

Carnegie Mellon Mechanical Engineering Students Develop
Tools To Help Improve Truck Drivers' Work Environment

PITTSBURGH—Carnegie Mellon University engineering students will unveil a variety of tools and design concepts that may ultimately help the trucking industry entice more baby boomers to drive big rigs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Dec. 15 in the University Center's Rangos Hall on the Carnegie Mellon campus.     

"The senior design class is great because it gives us an opportunity to work on industry-related issues in diverse teams," said Basheer Husami, a senior mechanical engineering major. His group, one of 13 in the class, is developing a special rack that would be used to attach a mobile scooter to the truck cab. Husami said drivers could use the scooter as an alternative means of transportation as they wait to have their rigs unloaded at various locations throughout the country.    

TruckOther Carnegie Mellon students are looking at ways to make the big rigs easier to access and more user-friendly for the growing number of drivers over the age of 50 who are seeking more comfortable cabs.    

Since 2000, the number of service and truck drivers 55 or older has surged 19 percent to about 616,000, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. This percentage jump is quadruple that of truck drivers overall.     

"There is a real need out there to entice more long-haul drivers, so any kind of creative class work to attract people to the industry, like the work under way by Carnegie Mellon engineering students, is icing on the cake," said Darrin Drollinger, vice president of technical and safety services for the Association of Equipment Manufacturers. The Wisconsin-based trade association represents more than 700 manufacturers and suppliers involved in the trucking and off-road equipment industry.      

This fall, the American Trucking Association is planning a billboard and television advertising campaign to lure older drivers.     

Drollinger said the new hiring binge has also dramatically increased the number of husband-and-wife driving teams, which also means new demands on truck makers to design rigs that feel more like rolling homes away from home.     

"This is a perfect challenge for my class, as we seek to develop functional solutions to everyday challenges," said Mechanical Engineering Professor Jonathan Cagan, co-author of "Creating Breakthrough Products: Innovation From Product Planning to Program Approval." The book identifies key factors associated with successful innovation and offers revolutionary approaches for building tomorrow's great products.      

The class projects are being sponsored by International Truck and Engine Corporation's Truck Development and Technology Center in Fort Wayne, Ind. "We are pleased to be able to support this engineering class," said Rajiv Prasad, vice president of product creation. "This collaboration gives us the opportunity to provide these bright engineering students with real-world design experience and, at the same time, address a critical need of our customers."