These days, truck drivers are supposed to be one of the most vulnerable groups when it comes to automation. Several companies have ongoing projects on these smart trucks, but the chances of seeing a fully automated vehicle soon are pretty low.
The Threat of Automation Is Hurting the Industry
Optimus Prime will not be rolling out any time soon, but the threat of losing their jobs to smart machines has dissuaded potential drivers from the trucking industry. There are hardly any new truck drivers, and your average truck driver is nearing 60 years of age. This comes at a time when the demands of the trucking industry are particularly high. The booming economy, low tax rates, and access to online shops have spurred the manufacturing sector creating more significant demands on the trucking industry. Trucking companies are scrambling for personnel, and not a few trucks remain unused for lack of a driver. The increased workload has resulted in overloaded trucks, companies rushing to meet deadlines, and overly fatigued drivers. This has caused an increasing number of accidents, and lawyers for both the victims and trucking companies are constantly battling in the courtroom.
What Automation Will Do
The chances of having fully automated trucks driving around Los Angeles or any part of the U.S. is close to zero. Flying is the safest way to travel; you have nothing to hit, you’re traveling in generally a straight line, and there are no other vehicles in your immediate area. However, planes still have pilots, and the onboard autopilot is just there to assist. Automated trucks will likely function in the same way. The car can go on autopilot once it reaches the highway, but drivers are still needed to drive on city streets and to make crucial decisions. Experts believe that the increased efficiency that automation brings to the industry will increase the need for drivers and not reduce it; more trucks on the road requires more drivers. Smart vehicles can only assist an actual human driver. It can’t make crucial decisions on the fly or react to certain unforeseen circumstances. Sadly, the fear of automation has driven potential drivers away, and the trucking industry is now facing a massive shortage of drivers
What the Industry Needs Today
The trucking industry is in dire need of new drivers — younger ones at that. Younger drivers are more flexible and are more likely to adapt to new technology quickly. The government plans to allow younger drivers to cross state lines, lowering the age from 21 to 18. This will enable new graduates to immediately start their careers in trucking, instead of waiting three more years. The trucking industry will face a more significant crisis when the bulk of its drivers reach retirement age in 5-10 years, and new drivers are badly needed to fill in their shoes.
In the end, automation will not do away with trucking jobs. Driving has so many complexities, and a computer program is still no match to the human mind.