Trucking and AI: How Chat GPT Can Help You on the Road

andrew winkler on the set of trucking podcast "driven too far" as he discusses the future of trucking and AI

On this episode of Driven Too Far, we’re talking ChatGPT, just what is it and how can AI impact the future of trucking. Hello, I’m Andrew Winkler, and this is Driven Too Far: The Truth About Trucking, a podcast that helps over-the-road truck drivers balance careers and family.

Artificial Intelligence: Trucking and AI

ChatGPT, so what is all the buzz about? You hear terms like ChatGPT, AI, it’s a little bit scary if you don’t know much about the technology side of things, and I’m in that same boat. I don’t necessarily understand it all. I’m certainly got to a point where I’m curious about it and experimenting just a little bit about it. So I’ve gotten to the point now I’m wondering, “Okay, this stuff’s pretty cool, this technology.” You can essentially go to a webpage. You can type in a question or ask it to write you a paper or an essay, a response, and this thing responds to you in almost human-like language.

So it’s different than say Google or some of your search engines. When you go to Google and you search for something, you’ve put in keywords in that search topic, then it goes out in the internet, it locates those keywords in a search and it comes back and it presents your things in a list. And that’s what you see when you’re searching for an auto mechanic or something like that. ChatGPT’s a little bit different because it’s almost like a human interface with language and it’s like you’re having a conversation with this machine.

So if I’ve gotten more curious about it, I’m trying to think, “Well, okay, we’re in trucking, so how can we use this thing to our advantage or how can a driver use this? What’s it going to do for us?” I went as far as actually putting a ChatGPT icon on our driver’s mobile app this week, and I’ve sent a note out to the drivers, encouraging them to set up an account. It’s free to use and experiment just a little bit, see what we can learn.

One of the things I decided to do is I’m trying to test the situation or see if it’s got limits. I said, “Okay, I’m going to put a situation in this thing and I’m going to type it in.” And I said, “I’m in Omaha, Nebraska and I want to go to Nashville, Tennessee. I want to know the best route. My truck gets 6.8 miles per gallon, I have a 200-gallon capacity on the truck. I’ve got 100 gallons when I leave Omaha and I want to finish with 100 gallons when I reach Nashville. Where should I stop for fuel and who’s got the best prices for fuel along that route?” And lo and behold, here it spits out an answer for you. So it’s pretty crazy that it can figure all this stuff out. And I don’t know how it does it, but it’s really interesting.

We happen to run a flatbed carrier or flatbed truck line, and I’m thinking, “Okay, what other stumbling points to some of the drivers have, new drivers?” In flatbed, there are a lot of regulations about tying your loads down and how many chains or how many straps I need to safely tie the load down and meet the DOT minimum requirements. Let’s test it out. So I typed that in there. I said, “I got a 48-foot flatbed. I’ve got a load of 40-foot steel beams that weigh a total of 40,000 pounds. What kind of securement do I need on this load?” And the first answer it came back with was generic and stuff. It didn’t give me a lot of detail, but the cool thing that we figured out about ChatGPT is you can continue the conversation with it. So if it doesn’t give you the exact answer you want at first, you just ask it a little different question and ask it for more detail.

So in that case with the flatbed load and how I tie it down, it gave me an overview, but when I say, “How many changes of straps do I need to secure this load?” 40,000 pounds, 40-foot beams, and stuff, and it did, it must have gone out to the FMCSA rule book and it came back with the securement requirements for that. It said you had to have a minimum of so many straps or chains, and the weight rating of those securement devices, had to be 50%. And then it figured out how many total straps or chains I needed on that 40-foot load. So it did exactly what I wanted it to do.

It was really crazy. And, it started to make me wonder what the future is for Trucking and AI.

The other thing I asked it to do is I’m thinking about professional drivers and your life on the road, and diet and exercise are always something. It can be an unhealthy lifestyle if you let it be. But I’d seen somewhere say somebody asked the ChatGPT to write me a keto diet plan, a sample plan for seven days, and, lo and behold, it spits it out. So I took that one step further. I said, “Write me a ketogenic diet plan.” And I told him my weight, how much I weigh, and how much I wanted to lose in what timeframe if I want to go from 250 pounds to 200 pounds in six months.

And then I said, “Make sure these foods are available in truck stops.” So I took it that far thinking about the drivers and what you have access to out on the road, and it did, it found foods that would be commonly found in truck stops in fast food restaurants, whether it be a salad or ordering a hamburger with no bun and some of those things.

So it’s just really fascinating what this thing can come up with and a little bit scary, a little bit spooky. Don’t quite know the limits of this or where it’s going, but I have a feeling we’re just on the tip of the iceberg. And this company, OpenAI, is the one that has launched ChatGPT. And I was listening to a podcast on my way here to the studio today, and it was talking about this is just the tip. Microsoft’s got their fingers in it, Google’s got their fingers in it, and everybody’s trying to develop this in the background. So I think the future’s really going to change here over the next year or so.

What about your company? How could your company put this technology to use to make your life a little bit easier as a driver? And I think some of it you’ve probably already seen, when you think about you go to a website and all of a sudden, a little window pops up and you got a little chatbot in the bottom, somebody’s asking you questions.

Now you can tell a difference between some that are intelligent, and not so intelligent, right? The chatbot is intelligent, it’s asking you intuitive questions and it’s understanding what you’re asking for and it’s responding back like a human in that conversation to you.

I think there are a lot of future uses for drivers when we start to think about training. How do we interact with this thing and how can it give us the training we need? How can we ask questions to the system about the training we need? And it’s going to go into whatever database it’s programmed to use to go find those answers and bring it back to you in a format that you can understand.

How about your spouse and your family? What could we do there with this? Again, I was playing with it, testing it, and seeing what kind of limitations it has.

Now the one thing I can tell you that it can’t do or it wouldn’t do was, Sunday morning I asked it, “What are the odds of the Creighton Bluejays advancing to the final four?” And they had a game Sunday afternoon against San Diego State. And it came back and it said, “Basically, I’m not programmed to answer that kind of question.” So I guess you can’t use it on your sportsbook and try to figure out who you should bet for in the next Super Bowl.

So it does have some limitations, and I think I heard that on the podcast on the way down that I was listening to as well. They were talking about writing ethics into it to make sure that the responses aren’t unethical in some ways. So when it comes to maybe health and wellness and medical advice, and you think about laws and regulations, it’s certainly not going to probably give you advice on how to do something illegal. So it does have that kind of limit.

But on the home front, I wanted to test it a little bit and the scenario I’m thinking about is you’re out on the road and your spouse is at home with the kids or something like that. Something inevitably happens at the house, whether it’s the furnace going out or the car needs repaired or something like that. But how can your wife or your spouse use this thing to their advantage? And it’s the same kind of thing, type in, “I need top heating and air conditioning repair services in Toledo, Ohio that has a Google ranking of this, so I know I’m getting the best service,” and pops right up and it gives you four or five different services.

Same thing with auto repair, and maybe you’re stranded on the side of the road or your wife is, that seems to be when you get that call, right? Something’s happened and they need you right now and unfortunately, you’re not home to help them or take care of them, but this could be an assistant or a tool that they might be able to use in that moment of need where they can actually figure out how to get the help they need.

They can tell the system exactly what it is. It’s making a sound, it’s leaking coolant, it’s a flat tire, whatever that looks like. And it will intelligently respond to you in what the next steps might need to be for you to resolve that problem.

I am curious about what the schools are going to do with this thing. I think that was the first instance I heard of ChatGPT and its ability to write essay papers or, in our case, we use blogs and things for our business on the website. But how are the schools going to control this if all of a sudden, your kid can go home and say, I need a five-page essay on this certain topic and it spits out an essay that they can essentially copy and paste into Word or Google Docs or something and turn in as their own? How are the schools going to patrol that? I certainly don’t know, and I’m sure they’re all probably trying to figure that out right now, but I do definitely see the use for assisting your kids with homework and some things like that. It’s certainly a powerful tool. It’s almost like having a teacher right in the room where the limitations seem endless, really.

You might be able to use it for health and wellness-type things. It’s not uncommon for people now when you get certain symptoms, somebody’s not feeling well in your family, you jump on the internet, maybe you go to WebMD or some things like that, and you’re trying to search for those symptoms, and it doesn’t always come back with a clear answer. It just takes you to WebMD and then you got to continue the search and dig down. But I think where ChatGPT comes in, as you could specifically tell them exactly, “I have a three-year-old child that is running a slight fever and they’re coughing and their ear hurts.” It has a really good chance of telling you what may be the cause of that situation and the cause of that issue.

I don’t know what the future holds for ChatGPT. It seems like it’s here and it’s going to evolve fast, but I do think it will have an impact on our world in transportation and trucking. If you get a chance, maybe just jump on a computer, you can do it on your phone as well. Google it, ChatGPT. It’ll pop right up. It’s a company called OpenAI. Again, it’s free to use. You got to set up a quick account.

Log in, it’s just an email and a password, nothing special doesn’t cost anything, and just experiment with it and play with it.

So, what’s the future of Trucking and AI? While we don’t know much, yet. What we do know is exciting and scary.

I’m curious about what you learn, and I’m anxious to hear from our own team at home, how are they going to use it. What have they found useful for it, and where does this thing take us in the future of trucking?

What do you think is the future of trucking and AI? I would love to hear from you!

And finally, I have one last ask. Make sure you download this trucking podcast on your favorite podcast-listening platform and don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel.