LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Ted Scherzinger kept a tight grip on the key to his experimental truck at the Mid-America Trucking Show here last week.
Scherzinger, the principal engineer of Kenworth Truck Co.'s advanced concepts group, had transformed a common freight hauler into a mobile electronics showcase.
The doors to the T2000 heavy-duty tractor were locked to keep out snoops from rival truck companies. Still, crowds at the show pressed against the windows of the cab to see a cockpit crammed with advanced electronics.
'I've been in the truck industry for 25 years, and this is the most fun I've ever had,' said Scherzinger, who let some reporters and guests get a closer look.
At the heart of the high-tech cockpit is an in-dash computer, based on a Windows 95 operating system, that features voice-activation and such applications as navigation, global positioning and a driver's log.
The computer also has a vehicle-diagnostic system that could be linked by satellite to a remote maintenance center.
Other goodies include miniature cameras mounted outside the truck to beam live images of blind spots into the cab. Infrared night vision searches for objects beyond the throw of the truck's headlights.
A large, flat-screen monitor mounted in the sleeping area of the cab is the display for word processing, e-mail, a Web browser and cable TV with Dolby surround sound.
Scherzinger said he adopted technology that would help Kenworth customers. For example, more efficient vehicle diagnostics might allow a driver to catch a component failure before it happens. That reduces the like-lihood of a truck breakdown.
Kenworth, which is based in Kirkland, Wash., is a unit of Paccar Inc.
Kenworth General Manager Edward Caudill said fleet managers and owner-operators are looking for tools to maximize vehicle operating time and lower costs.
Said Caudill: 'The ability of truck operators to quickly collect, process and disseminate information is becoming as important as the ability to rapidly and reliably pick up and deliver freight.'