Advances in transportation and autonomous driving

We live and operate businesses at a unique time in history. Consumers have never been more aware of supply chain disruptions, delayed delivery times and challenges in restocking inventory. And even though the freight industry is the strongest in years, posting record quarter after record quarter, trouble is brewing on the horizon.

truck driver shortage

According to the American Trucking Association, there are 3.5 million professional truck drivers in America, and by 2030 there could be a shortage of more than 160,000 truck drivers, considering the current shortage of more than 80,000 truck drivers.

This shortage, combined with exceptional demand, has left the trucking industry in a vulnerable and overwhelmed state. Along with technological innovations making their jobs more efficient, advances in transportation such as the development of autonomous trucks will help solve supply chain hotspots and modernize the industry. More and more companies in this space have sprung up, technologies are being tested accordingly, and the date when it will be normal to see automated trucks on the roads is fast approaching.

Is autonomous truck driving expected to become cheaper due to fewer workers, higher fuel efficiency and higher productivity? Technology is changing rapidly, so naturally there are concerns about the future of robotic cars. But people in the industry are excited about this technology because it will help improve productivity, reduce fuel costs and increase efficiency, and ease traffic on US freeways. Key players looking to improve this technology, such as Aurora Innovation, TuSimple, Waymo, Tesla, and a few others, are testing driverless trucks on US highways with drivers still behind the wheel.

Look to the future

American Trucking Association President Chris Spear said he doesn’t see the continued advancement of autonomous trucking as a threat to drivers, as economic factors will ensure demand for drivers for years to come. “Right now, one in every 16 jobs in the United States is truck related. The top job in 29 states is truck driving…I don’t see that as a threat,” Spear said. “I see this as a contribution to how innovation could actually help alleviate the pressure we are putting on the supply chain and the industry to meet the needs of our customers.”

Autonomous trucks pose a direct threat to truck driver jobs, but the main question is, “Are truck drivers really going to lose their jobs?” Not all truck drivers will lose their jobs because the future role of the truck driver differs may not differ too much from that of an airline pilot who still oversees the flight and arranges take-off and landing. Human drivers will still be needed to monitor cargo and perform customer service tasks. Even if there are self-driving trucks on the highways, truck drivers will continue to be of great importance in the industry.

Finally

As reported by Business Insider, Goldman Sachs predicts that 300,000 truck driver jobs per year will be lost by 2042 or even earlier. Skilled drivers will eventually be replaced by computers (and a smaller number of human attendants). The trucks currently being tested and implemented are self-driving, but they are obviously not fully autonomous at this time. In fact, most of these autonomous trucks will be driver-assisted, while fully automated they will need human supervision. As technology advances rapidly and autonomous trucking becomes more affordable, we could see more and more shipping companies starting to adopt autonomous trucking. Autonomous trucks offer mostly beneficial changes, but we’re still a few years away from seeing them on the market and even further away from being the industry standard. There is still time to evolve, improve and make the transition to autonomous trucks smooth for everyone involved.

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