Balancing act

Technology. It’s a pretty broad term when you think about it. The wheel’s invention was a leap in technology, more so the many devices spawned from its central application. Harnessing the power of steam moved us further forward. One could argue that tapping into the semiconductive power of silicon via the microchip was the single biggest jump in technology that’s led humanity to the world it runs today. Pick a subject, and you can directly or indirectly apply the term ‘technology’ to it in some way or another.

The thing with ‘technology’ is, it advances exponentially as time passes. Things started out slow – the wheel – and picked up pace at a rate now outstripping our conscious idea of time. We’ve all heard the one about cellphones being more technologically advanced than the rocket that shot Neil and the gang to the moon. Think about how much had to happen in those 40 or 50 years to get to that point. It’s staggering. But, sometimes, things move just a bit too quickly.

Some call this being ahead of the curve, being ahead of the times … or getting ahead of yourself.

When we received the press release last month about Mercedes-Benz releasing a ‘back to basics’ version of the Actros in Europe, dubbed the Actros F, we had mixed feelings – partly surprise, partly not. Arguably, the New Actros (MP4) has been at the forefront of trucking technological advancement since its debut in 2011 – and even more so since it was revised for 2019 with all those fancy screens and cameras for mirrors.

Two years later and Actros F comes to the party with “classic glass outside mirrors and Classic Cockpit”. It’s a truck, said the manufacturer, “aimed at those customers looking for a functional truck but who do not necessarily need every new innovation of the latest Actros generation. They want a truck with an attractive price-performance ratio and the authentic Mercedes-Benz Trucks DNA.”

Reading between the lines, one has to think Mercedes-Benz has made a subtle admission it went a bit too far with all the big tech. And that’s coming from Europe, a market we tend to think of as more refined, more classy, more technologically advanced.

This is not to single out the Actros, but it does show that trucking’s somewhat of an anomaly in the wider automotive world. More often than not it’s a case of ‘give us what we need, keep the rest’. And that’s understandable; trucks are there to do a job, keep the world moving and earn a buck. They are quite unlike new cars bought by consumers wowed by all the latest gadgets, the latest bikes so quick they require everything their manufacturers can throw at them just to stay on the road, heck, even the latest GPS-guided tractors.

Sure, each new generation of truck rides more comfortably, has the power to reverse the earth’s rotation and should be more reliable while doing so. But there’s no doubt trucking consumers prefer that things don’t go too far, too quickly. We see and hear it every day. Electric trucks? “Not during my time.” Hydrogen maybe? “No, thanks.” Autonomy? “Bugger off now, mate!”

Yep, when it comes to trucks, there’s a fine line between being ahead of the curve and getting ahead of yourself.

All the best,

Gavin Myers
Assistant editor