Unders, overs, and speed control

In Trucking Toward a Better Future 20235 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineOctober 27, 2023

Lindsay Wood offers some inspirational thinking for the 2023 Trucking Toward a Better Future competition.

“Yay!” I thought when I heard the announcement of Auckland trialling point to point average-speed cameras. “About time!” And it got me thinking about the role of creativity in making things better.

If you read last year’s piece about getting a delayed plane off the ground in a hurry, you might recall Emirate’s teams on their Airbus A380s came up with a stream of innovations that improved their efficiency an amazing 99.3%. Emirates obviously valued doing things better, and encouraged ideas that might make that happen.

Getting Emirate’s crews involved in operational thinking is a classic example of “Going to Gemba” (going to where the work happens), which is one of the five cornerstones of the highly successful Kaizen method of management.

Of course, the Trucking Toward a Better Future competition is another classic case of going to Gemba – it’s crazy and wonderful that lots of the 20,000 truckies behind the wheel on any given day might just be chewing over ideas with a chance of winning one of the great prizes. And not being put off (AKA allodoxaphobic!) by whether the ideas are mainstream or left-outfield, cool or conservative: they’ll be welcomed with open arms anyway, and who knows?

So, what’s that got to do with speed control? Well, I honestly don’t know who thought of averaging speeds as a device, but I do know that there have been heaps of clever refinements of how to keep traffic speed in check. They are all about trying to do things better, and I love the creativity that goes into some of them.

Not long ago the ubiquitous speed limit sign was about all there was, with observant cops, and progressively refined radar, to nab people who didn’t take enough notice of the signs. I’m old enough to recall when radar was a clunky great box sitting on a patrol car’s roof – aprecursor to today’s nifty hand-held gadgets and pole-mounted speed cameras.

In parallel with refined radar also came creativity to help drivers avoid speed traps! The flick of the headlamps warning oncoming traffic, dashtop radar detectors, and today’s real-time GPS mapping where speed cameras are – all, in reality, ways to help people break the law.

Then along came someone who must have read Edward de Bono, and his creativity kick-starter “Po:”. “Po: is there a better way to control speed than punishing people?”

“Hmmm? What say we help people get it right, rather than nail them for getting it wrong?” Signs flashing “Your speed”, and its variants (“SLOW DOWN!” etc.), are brilliant messaging: “We know how fast you’re going,” they tell us, “and we could book you, but mostly we want to help you drive safely.” It works a treat for me.

“Hmmm 2? What say roads look the speed they need?” Sometimes that can work better than speed limit signs, as US organisation Strong Towns explains.

But the quest for ongoing improvement is never finished. Along came some bright spark who joined the dots between number plate recognition technology and the ability to average speeds over a distance. Wow! Another game changer!

I first experienced a system like this in the UK, and I thought it was pretty cool. Twelve miles of roadworks with a speed-averaging system over its length. It didn’t matter if I crept up a bit as long as my average was low enough when I exited. No worries if you’re driving sensibly ­– and no point in just slowing for the cameras!

Anybody out there with a brainwave what the next speed-limiting innovation might be? Or, in the spirit of the TTABF competition, how an on-road system might help each of us drive in a way that minimises our emissions. Now there’sa great challenge!

The Trucking Toward a Better Future competition closes on 15 November 2023. Visit nztrucking.co.nz/category/trucking-toward-a-better-future-2023/ for full details on how to enter, and to find more weekly inspirational updates.

– by Lindsay Wood, director, Resilienz