Sure, a zombie apocalypse is the stuff of popular fiction. But real emergencies such as the extensive flooding caused by Hurricane Matthew can reach a similar feel very quickly as you're cut off from things you need, the power's out and you can't get through on roadways. So fleet management systems company Omnitracs has unveiled a Halloween-timely PR effort in the form of an online game called Zombie Dispatch. It's meant to be for fun, but there are serious undertones. And truckers are the heroes.
"Whether it's a natural disaster, day-to-day supplies or a zombie apocalypse, truck drivers are critically important," Jim Gardner, vice president of marketing at Omnitracs, tells American Trucker. "That's exactly the message we wanted to get out with this game. The public needs to recognize not only the professionalism of the drivers, but the critical role they play in the economy in normal times, let alone during natural disasters and emergencies."
In the game, users get to play Dan, a truck driver trying to deliver the antidote to the zombie virus. You guide his tractor-trailer through obstacles and zombies running down the road, gathering points as you go.
"The clock ticks; the virus spreads. Dan knows that the longer the antidote sits in the back of his truck, the worse the virus is going to get. He also knows that getting the cure for the zombie apocalypse to hospitals won't be easy."
And here's another one of those serious issue undertones: the game touches on driver shortages and the difficulty many fleets have recruiting and retaining drivers as well. "There aren't as many truck drivers on the road as there were just a few years ago, and the numbers of those still driving have been thinned by the virus," the game explains as you get started.
The game also manages to fold in a message about the role of technology and fleet management systems, and how they keep trucks rolling and getting through post-disaster. Playing the game, the user gets an occasional humorous message like "Rest in peace, unsafe and inefficient fleets!"
"It's the drivers, it's the industry, and from our perspective, the technology supports both," Gardner says. "When you're driving and trying to get the goods to where they need to go — again, whether it's a natural disaster or just day-to-day on the job — it's important to know what roads are closed, what the best routes are, and to simplify the driving experience and make it more efficient.
"That's where Omnitracs can help you be as efficient and productive as possible," he continues.
Regarding the day-to-day importance of trucking, here's the game's message:
"If trucks stopped rolling, in just 24 hours, gas prices would skyrocket and hospitals would exhaust basic supplies. In 2-3 days, supplies of bottled water and non-perishable goods would be exhausted. By the end of the week, hospitals would run out of critical supplies of oxygen and medicine."
In short, the country would quickly grind to a halt without trucking — and the folks at Omnitracs feel that's an important public service announcement to help counter the "big, scary truck" negative image of drivers and trucking that's often portrayed in the media.
To check out the game, go to http://playzombiedispatch.com.