From Silicon Valley to Russia, automated trucks are moving in – which means millions of truck drivers may be forced to move on. The International Transport Forum recently released a report stating up to 70 percent of all trucking jobs around the globe could be wiped out by 2030 as a result of self-driving trucks. The United States currently has about 3.5 million truck drivers, which means a massive wave of unemployed workers will swamp the job market. Ironically, it is the fear of these future layoffs that is contributing to the current driver shortage in America. Too few drivers now, too many down the road.
It’s a tricky time in trucking.
Uber, Waymo (Google’s autonomous vehicle division), and Tesla are leading the autonomous trucking revolution in the United States. Most estimates predict wide scale adoption of fully autonomous long haul trucking remains at least a decade away. But the competition to be first is fierce, and testing of self-driving trucks is already well underway.
Self driving trucks represent one of several sobering realities facing today’s truckers. Stagnant pay, the electronic logging device mandate, and a host of new regulations have largely sapped truck driving of its reputation as a haven for free-spirited, asphalt cowboys.
It doesn’t help that trucking remains one of the deadliest occupations in America, and also one of the most maligned. A recent eye-opening piece by the New York Times tracked the experiences of several truck drivers over the course of several days. One recurring theme was just how little respect drivers feel they receive from the public at large.
“We’re throwaway people,” said one trucker. “Nobody cares about us. Everybody’s perception of a truck driver is we clog up traffic, we get in the way, we pollute the environment. We’re just like cops. Everybody needs us, but nobody wants us.”
It should go without saying, truckers deserve everyone’s respect, both on and off the highway. The majority of fatal accidents involving trucks are actually caused by vehicles other than the truck. And many people seem to forget that just about everything they can touch and eat in their home was transported by a truck.
The good news is the future may be bright for truck drivers who are willing to adapt with the times. The changing trucking landscape will require “mobile logistics experts” who can oversee and orchestrate the “new way” of doing things. While these positions will require extensive training and may not be as plentiful as the current number of trucking positions, there will be opportunities for motivated truckers looking to take the next step in their careers.
LaneAxis is in the business of making life easier for everyone in the transportation industry, including truck drivers. Our hope is that truckers will get the respect and opportunities they deserve – now and well into the future.