Carnegie Mellon students tackle truck driver shortage

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With the trucking industry beset by a labor shortage, members of the industry recently asked students at Carnegie Mellon University to come up with solutions. Backed by the sponsorship of the Fort Wayne, Ind.-based International Truck and Engine Corp.’s Truck Development and Technology Center, mechanical engineering students at CMU unveiled some ideas for making truck driving easier, more comfortable and more attractive, according to the Pittsburgh Business Times.

“This is a perfect challenge for my class, as we seek to develop functional solutions to everyday challenges,” mechanical engineering professor Jonathan Cagan told the newspaper. CMU, quoting statistics from the federal Bureau of Labor Relations, said that the number of service and truck drivers over the age of 55 has surged by 19 percent since 2000.

Dan Murray, a vice president of research with the American Transportation Research Institute, estimates that women make up 4 to 6 percent of the truck driving pool, but that the level could be raised. “It seems like a really intriguing population, but we need to know what their requirements are and whether the industry can meet those requirements,” Murray told the Times.

One CMU group is developing a special rack that would be used to attach a mobile scooter to the truck cab. Basheer Husami, a senior mechanical engineering major, told the Times that 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. The CMU students also are working on features designed to appeal to second-career drivers over the age of 50.

“There is a real need out there to entice more long-haul drivers, so any kind of creative classwork to attract people to the industry, like the work under way by Carnegie Mellon engineering students, is icing on the cake,” Darrin Drollinger, vice president of technical and safety services for the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, told the Times.