The technology of today has truly changed the way we see things. From e-commerce to retail, innovations are slowly shifting the gears towards modernization, including the transportation sector. Major automobile giants are now introducing autonomous vehicles that require no driver to safely operate on the road. Known as driverless vehicles, they use sensors and software to automatically navigate and control the vehicle.
While this might seem like a major advancement to transportation, the trucking industry is concerned with the introduction of driverless trucks. Worried that they might lose their job and soon be replaced by robots, many truckers are now facing the challenge of automation. With its main purpose to provide safer, cheaper and more efficient hauls, could self driving trucks be good for truckers? Or are they are just putting more than 1 million truck driving jobs in danger? Will self-driving trucks slowly replace “the man behind the wheel” within the next decade?
1. Truck drivers and labor supply
Long hauls, tiring travels, and countless nights on the road – these are just some of the many reasons why it’s hard to work in the trucking business. Add up the average compensation and stringent job requirements, it’s no wonder why there is a huge decrease in the current number of truck drivers. Although the industry is rapidly evolving, still there is a big problem when it comes to the labor supply chain.
Aging population is a long term problem in the trucking business. Studies have shown that 55% of truckers are aged over 45, and only 25% are younger than 35 years old. With its aging demographics, more than half of the truckers population will soon enter the retirement phase, hence an increase in job shortage. The driver shortage and skyrocketing cargo demand have led companies to think of an alternative solution – automation in the form of self-driving trucks.
2. Autonomous trucks will still need human intervention
Every delivery requires distinct facilities, and every truck is different depending on needs. Each truck has to be managed according to its uses as well as specifications. And even if technology comes along the way, nothing could totally replace the unique abilities and refined expertise of human drivers. Self-driving vehicles will more likely assist truckers rather than replace them.
For instance, complex road situations necessitate utmost proficiency and years of experience for it to be handled correctly. Most trucking companies are fully aware of the scope and limitation of self-driving vehicles. Some of the biggest challenges facing automated trucks include difficulty maneuvering into crowded streets, navigating into busy hubs, driving into tight city alleys, and transferring goods into loading facilities.
- The use of these trucks can be divided into two modes – simple and complex operations.
- Self-driving trucks are helpful and applicable when doing long-distance highway driving.
- But delivery and pick-up will still require manual human intervention.
3. Law involvement
Just like how commercial driving works, there are rules and regulations in the United States that limits the operation of self-driving vehicles. These laws serve as a major constraint when it comes to the use of automated wheelers, making the whole driving technology process harder to implement. The main body responsible for regulating fully autonomous vehicles is the NHTSA or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The House of Representative recently passed a bill that will lift restrictions concerning self-driving vehicles, but the U.S. Congress didn’t vote for the bill to speed up its introduction on highways. Though, keep in mind that this legislation doesn’t include automated trucks yet. And manufacturers might be limited too, as far as testing self-driving trucks only in states that support it.
- Owner-operators must find new ways to implement this type of technology.
- Up until now, regulations about the use of automated vehicles are still unclear.
- Ride-sharing companies are filing petitions to exclude them on their platform.
4. Is self-driving trucks a good idea?
So, could self-driving trucks be good for truckers? Admittedly, it’s hard to implement new forms of technology when it raises concern about the mass layoff and labor problems. When GPS was first introduced, many people questioned its efficiency and privacy of use. But ten years later, it has become one of the most used car gadgets that help people track vehicles and pinpoint its exact location. The same thing applies to self-driving trucks.
The innovation being offered by self-driving vehicles goes beyond labor issues and other concerns. Instead of seeing it as a competitor, the technology will actually assist drivers to uphold road safety. The use of special programs and high-tech devices brings a new breed of benefits such as:
- It avoids collisions, maintains stability, and sends early signal warnings.
- It makes driving big trucks on long haul safer and more efficient.
- It allows a dynamic and versatile use of modern technology.
5. The bottom-line
If you are wondering how could self driving trucks be good for truckers, the answer is simple – technology and human intervention should go hand in hand to reach success. Believe it or not, automated trucks will not cause major conflicts with trucking jobs, but will instead create new opportunities.
Think of it this way... imagine 100,000 self-driving trucks operating on major highways. With its increased efficiency and lowered operational cost, the more goods will be delivered on time and freight volume will go up. Thus, there would be an increase in demand resulting in an upsurge of local haul job openings and manpower vacancies.
There should be a well-balanced opportunity between the two. The cutting edge technology of self-driving trucks should coexist with the unmatched skills and expertise of the driver. After all, technology doesn’t destroy local jobs but rather generate new ones.