A trucker’s cab is their office on the road, and often their home-away-from-home as well. As such, it makes sense for truckers to take the right technology along for the ride to make their lives more efficient, enjoyable, and safe.
Here are some “trucker tech” ideas that came across our desks at TSI that hit all of these marks.
Solare Self-Charging Headset
Microphone-equipped headsets can be a great hands-free communications tool for truckers. The trouble is that wireless versions eventually run out of battery power, putting them out of action during the recharging cycle. Wired versions do have this problem, but their cords can get in the way.
Now there’s a third option that avoids both of these shortcomings: The Solare solar-powered communications headset made by Blue Tiger. Built to military grade MIL-STD-810 standards, the Solare is designed to keep recharging itself using available light both indoors and outdoors. It does this using patented Powerfoyle solar technology, a nano material that converts any light source into energy. Add the fact that the Solare comes with 97% noise canceling technology to block out road noise and a high-quality headset speaker for clear audio playback, and this self-charging headset is a useful choice for truckers wanting reliable audio communications 24/7. The Solare has won numerous honors such as the CES 2022 Innovation Award and Green Builder Sustainable Product of the Year 2022 award.
SmartCap Protects Against Falling to Sleep
Nodding off while on the road is something that all truckers do their best to avoid. But it is an ever-present danger during extremely long hauls, especially when delays are caused due to bad weather and poor weather conditions.
To combat this danger using technology, the Australian company SmartCap has developed the wearable “LifeBand” headband that can be worn by itself, or fitted into caps and hardhats. The LifeBand comes with electroencephalogram (EEG) sensors built into it that monitor brainwave activity, allowing this device to detect fatigue and microsleeps in drivers. According to SmartCap’s documentation, “SmartCap has been independently lab-validated and field-validated to ensure accuracy and effectiveness, with no calibration required before use.”
The data generated by the LifeBand can be monitored by drivers directly via the downloadable LifeApp (available in Apple and Android versions). This data can also be monitored remotely by trucking firm managers using SmartCap’s LifeHub dashboard, and integrated into their company’s fleet management systems as well.
Coffee When You Need It
Fresh coffee can be a trucker’s best friend, which is why easy access to fresh coffee while on the road is a must The French company Handpresso makes a range of on-the-road coffee makers – including some that use Nespresso cartridges and others that can work with ground coffee – that are designed to work with 12V and 24V DC electrical systems. They are available as standalone coffeemakers or in zippered kits that also include coffee cartridges and clear espresso glasses, for those times when multiple espresso shots are called for.
Serious Dashcam Coverage
Dashcams have become a necessity for all drivers to capture what’s happening on the road in front of them – whether for insurance reasons when accidents occur, for law enforcement when other drivers break the law in dangerous and outrageous ways, or just to wow the world when a meteor falls within the vehicle’s view. This being said, not all dashcams are created equal. This is why savvy truckers choose high performance models like the Nextbase 622GW dash cam.
Capable of recording full-motion 4K video at 30 frames per second – from which still photos can be extracted – the image-stabilized Nextbase 622GW captures the clear, high definition imagery that truckers need to protect themselves and their interests; even in the dark, thanks to this camera’s night vision mode. It can also alert emergency services when a driver is unresponsive following an accident via the Nextbase Emergency SOS service, and send 911 accurate coordinates to help find the truck via the what3words.com, which has mapped the world into unique three meter sections. This location data is updated and stored within the Nextbase 622GW at all times, allowing truckers to relay it to 911 themselves if a data connection is not available.
Finally, the Nextbase 622GW’s Intelligent Parking Mode can alert truckers to anyone trying to move their vehicles after they have left them. It can also be paired with a Nextbase rear view camera for extra visibility.
Amateur Radio for Extra Protection
There is no doubt that cellphones and CB radio are highly useful communications tools for truckers. But cellphone networks can be knocked by during emergencies and natural disasters, while CB radios have a limited range. So do mobile amateur radios – aka ham radios. But unlike CB radios, ham radios can connect to a worldwide network of ‘repeater’ stations, extending their range and their ability to call for help.
Of course, you have to pass a test to be a ham radio operator. But the days of needing to know Morse Code are long gone, while the knowledge needed to pass the amateur radio test through the ARRL (www.arrl.org/find-an-amateur-radio-license-class), the national US association for amateur radio.
Once you have your ham license, it is easy to install a mobile ham radio in your truck, allowing you to talk to other hams as you go down the road. One option for doing this affordably and effectively is the Baofeng BTECH UV-25X4. This tri-band mobile amateur radio – 136-174MHz (VHF), 220-260MHz (1.25M), and 400-520MHz (UHF) – can transmit at either 10 or 25 watts, and has FM added (65-108 MHz) in a listen-only mode. All of its functions can be controlled using the radio’s front-panel controls or the buttons mounted on its wired microphone, and viewed using the UV25X4’s full-color LCD display.
Add in a Nagoya TB-320A antenna and Nagoya RB-50 magnetic antenna mount to put it on top of the truck, and the Baofeng BTECH UV-25X4 will add that extra element of connectivity that survives cell phone outages and out-reaches CB Radio. It’s an safety-first element of reliable communications that all truckers should have in their cabs, especially if they drive in remote areas with poor cell phone coverage and limited truck traffic,
Portable Power for Your Smartphone, Plus Radio
There are times when the power dies in a truck cab, and the driver has to wait to be rescued.
Usually their smartphone battery will last long enough for this to happen, unless it’s a blizzard and they’re stuck waiting for days.
To ensure access to charging power plus life-saving radio news and weather, it makes sense to have an eTon Scorpion II radio onboard. Built with a carabiner clip in the handle so that it can be attached to a belt or backpack, the Scorpion II is a rugged AM/FM/NOAA weatherband radio with a built-in ½ watt LED flashlight. Its 800mAh lithium battery can be recharged using its hand-cranked generator, its onboard solar power panel, or by plugging the Scorpion II into an AC adaptor. 4 minutes of hand-cranking will provide enough power for one minute of talk time on a phone, or 10-15 minutes of radio usage.
This same battery can be used to top up smartphones using the Scorpion II’s USB port and charging cable (included). As a result, a driver can count on having access to radio, light, and power for their smartphone for as long as they are stuck in their truck. The Scorpion II also has a LED display panel to manage the radio, charging system, and clock, plus a built-in opener for standard glass drinking bottles.
A Truly Useful Multi-Tool
We don’t mean to show any disrespect to the Victorinox Swiss Army Knife multi-tool: It’s a pretty cool device. But the Leatherman Wave multi-tool is also cool, and provides functions that the Swiss Army Knife doesn’t. This is because the Leatherman Wave is built on a squeezable plier-type base, rather than a folding pocket knife. As such, it comes with tools such as needlenose and regular pliers, two types of wire cutters, an electrical crimper, and a wire stripper. The Leatherman Wave also includes a regular and a serrated knife, a saw, spring-action scissors, can and bottle openers, wood/metal and diamond-coated files, large and small bit drivers, a medium slot screwdriver, and even a ruler.
Can’t decide between these multi-tools? Then you can find them both here:
Ensuring Access to Clean Water
Just as there are rare times when a trucker will get in their cab due to bad weather, there are also occasions where they are out in the wilds somewhere to water, but not necessarily clean water. This is when water filtration products made by LifeStraw can literally be a lifesaver, such as the LifeStraw Squeeze 1 liter/quart flexible filter bottle for personal use or the LifeStraw Mission 5 or 12 liter/quart suspended water filtration gravity system for larger water needs.
Since LifeStraw’s water filtration systems are designed for the Great Outdoors, TSI magazine asked Ontario-based wilderness adventurer Nicole Adams (she has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro) to assess the usefulness of these products. Her verdict? The LifeStraw Squeeze is “small, surprisingly tough, and compresses into a convenient ball that you can tuck into a pocket,” said Adams. “It’s also very simple to use — open, fill, squeeze, drink — and includes a backflow syringe to clean the filter when needed.”
As for the larger capacity LifeStraw Mission? “Once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty easy to use,” she said. “The flow rate on the filtered water is relatively slow, but we simply filled our water bottles from the filtered tap and used that for drinking and cooking. There’s also a secondary valve to drain out unfiltered water (note: DO NOT drink water from that tap!) which proved handy when we needed water for washing dishes, or putting out our campfire at night.”
Stay Warmer with a Superlight Sleeping Bag
Sometimes a trucker has to camp out in a cab without sleeping accommodations. For these occasions, it can make sense to own a Spark Ultralight Sleeping Bag, because it does the job without requiring a lot of space. Available in models rated between 40 and 5 degrees Fahrenheit/5 to -125 degrees Celsius, the coldest-rated one-person Spark Superlight weighs 1lb 15oz/880g and compresses into a 6.6 cubic liter package. In short, it is very light and small when packed, yet capable of keeping the user warm in some pretty brutal conditions. Given that a truck cab will prevent some heat loss due to being relatively sealed against high winds, the Spark Superlight could keep a driver alive even in the coldest winter conditions
An e-Reader/Tablet Computer for the Road
Being a trucker can mean long nights spent by oneself, with hours to kill before sleep and hitting the road again the next morning. This is when having an eBook that connects into the vast Amazon online library can be a useful companion, especially since Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited Library provides access to millions of eBooks for just $9.99 a month.
Of course, the downside of many eBook readers is that all they can do is provide access to eBooks. If you want a reader that does this plus serves as a full-color computer tablet – at an affordable price – then take a look at the Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet. It comes with a 10.1” 1080p Full HD touch screen that can access the web, allowing you to surf and connect via email and social media to your heart’s content.
That’s not all: The Fire HD 10 can access Netflix, Facebook, Hulu, Instagram, TikTok, and more through Amazon’s Appstore, plus it can connect to Zoom calls and work with Microsoft Office, OneNote, and Dropbox. At the same time, the Fire HD 10 is actually a superior eBook reader, because it supports full color pictures in high resolution, which is more than many eBook readers can do. This tablet can even be operated hands-free using the Amazon Alexa voice recognition command system.