One of the neat things I get to do in my role at Bendix is manage the talented group that makes up our customer solutions demo team.This team travels almost every week to destinations around the U.S. and Canada to help fleets, drivers, and owner-operators better understand the technologies Bendix develops through ride-n-drive demonstrations we call “The Bendix Proving Ground.” It’s a great way to see the technology in action, in real-world scenarios that drivers experience on a daily basis.
Candidly, I’ve been in marketing for over two decades and I haven’t seen anything that helps deliver greatest impact and understanding than these in-person demos. Yes, literature and videos help show the technology; however, until you’re actually in the seat of a truck cab, you can’t truly appreciate the power and performance that can be delivered – or the limitations.
Picture this scenario played out weekly at the demo sites: You’ve climbed into the passenger seat and the 80,000 lb. GVCW tractor-trailer you’re riding in is rapidly approaching a slower moving passenger car. As the gap rapidly closes, you begin to question the logic of why you came out today to do this, and your right foot instinctively presses hard upon an imaginary brake pedal. “No way is this going to stop in time,” you think (or perhaps even say out loud). Suddenly, the system intervenes – alerts signal and the brakes come on. The truck, instead of rear-ending the car (as 40,000 large trucks did in 2015, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s “Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts” report), slows to match the pace of the car. The typical response uttered by nearly everyone is nothing short of “Wow! That was amazing!”
As a Class A CDL holder, I’ve driven enough demos to attest to that response. The demo is a powerful way to truly experience technologies that you may be thinking about buying for your fleet.
At Bendix, we know seeing is believing – that’s why we don’t just demo to sell product. In fact, education is at the heart of our Proving Ground experience.After all, the more you know, the better customer you become – especially in terms of knowing what to expect and how the technology may help in their particular operation. And, just as importantly, offering the context and realization that the technology also has its limits.
Along with the marketing aspect, the Bendix demo program offers three main benefits.
First, our demos are used to help fleets train their drivers on the new technologies they have added. Training drivers on technology is critical to help them learn both the value, and the limits, when they’re behind the wheel.). Remember, this is driver assistance and not driver replacement technology – we’re not quite to autonomous vehicles, so the driver is still vital to the safe operation of a commercial vehicle. Allowing drivers to experiencethe technology in real-world situations – with coaches available to aid understanding – helpsthem comprehend what the alerts mean and what to expect when the system intervene. Most importantly, demo training shows how to make sure the system doesn’t intervene – in other words, driving in their normal safe and alert mode.Driver training at the demo helps support other Bendix tools, as well, such as our “driving with…” videos, Operator’s Manuals, FAQs, and quick reference documents.
Second, during these sessions, drivers also benefit from the opportunity to understand the system-generated data and how that data can help them in a crash situation. Data is a part of the system, and drivers and fleets need to be aware and embrace – not ignore and fear – the insights this detail delivers.
The third element of value in our demo program is how it serves as an information resource for those groups that support or regulate the trucking industry. In the past, Bendix has supported demos for organizations such as the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA) to help legislators and regulators better understand the capabilities of these technologies. Bendix, on its own, has also conducted technology demos in Washington D.C. to help facilitate the understanding of technology today and where it may be going in the future. Each of us readily acknowledge thattrucking is a regulated business, and regulators and legislators need to know about these technologies so that if regulation is to occur, practical, proven technologies that deliver the most benefit are considered. (We’re not pushing for regulation, here, but if regulation is going to happen, we want it be the right technology that gets mandated. No one wants to go through a learning curve to prove a mandated approach is going to work. Regulations need to be based on fact and practicality, not on promises or perceptions of how it might help.)
All of this is why, in 2016, Bendix did about 90 demos, in 35 states, for almost 1,700 participants.Fleets, drivers, owner-operators, and more had the opportunity to see and feel the technology in action, as well as learn how it might help them in their particular operation.
So this begs the question…have you been to a demo recently? If so, great! If not, why not? If you’re thinking about technology, think seriously about attending a demo. And, bring your drivers along!
After all, you wouldn’t buy a new car without test driving it, would you? Why wouldn’t you do the same for the technology you’re considering for your trucks?
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