Trucking companies have always faced challenges, from safety concerns to fluctuating gas prices and even the unpredictability of getting enough loads to make a good living. Another potential threat has just emerged for truck driver jobs– self driving trucks.
In this post, we will look at the issue of automated drivers; As a truck driver, should I be scared? Will artificial intelligence (AI) make truck drivers for hire obsolete? Although it hasn’t happened yet, when will the science fiction of automated trucks become reality?
AI and machine learning have affected every industry and business sector, and the motor vehicles used by the trucking industry are no exception, as the technology behind self-driving cars makes autonomous truck capabilities much more realistic. Some people are excited about the prospect of technology making people's lives better and safer, while others worry that a machine may take away the livelihood that a human driver can earn.
Fortunately, truckers may be able to breathe a sigh of relief. There are three key reasons why autonomous trucks are unlikely to significantly impact the truck driver job market for the foreseeable future.
Besides driving, truckers are reasonable for ensuring that the vehicle is safe and the load is secure and balanced. And, they complete safety logs of these inspections. Customer service is also a valuable part of the trucking industry, especially when it comes to loading and unloading cargo. Truckers handle these essential jobs and develop positive relationships between customers and their delivery carriers, something that an automatically driven truck could never do. While some safety tasks are automated, such as sensors detecting unbalanced loads, it's still up to the human intervention of the trucker to fix and adjust the loads or have the truck repaired when on the road.
Currently, the state of driving automation, according to the Society of Automotive Engineers, is about a 2 or 3, on a scale of 0-5, with 0 being no automation at all and 5 being fully automated. Level 5 technology, or fully self-driving vehicles, isn't even at the practical testing stage point, and level 4, highly automated, is the current industry benchmark. Even level 3 automation, which may be employed in some industries, still isn't threatening driver's jobs.
And, although some vehicle companies are researching and developing autonomous technology, a lot has to happen before this technology is developed enough to have an impact on the trucking industry. Also, even when more vehicles have autonomous capabilities, they will likely be confined to long-distance, highway driving situations, meaning that short-haul and local drivers will be minimally affected, if at all.
According to Statistics Canada, there are hundreds of thousands of truck drivers with a commercial driver’s license in Canada. Add to that somewhere in the neighbourhood of 3 million truck drivers in the United States, and you can see how many individuals and families will be potentially affected by autonomous trucking in North America alone. It should be noted that a minority of these truck drivers are long-haul drivers, which is the category most likely to be impacted first.
Although, at some point in the future, long-haul trucking may become completely automated, this technological development is still a long way off. Even if the technology were ready today, there are still a lot of testing and regulatory hurdles for autonomous vehicles to pass, as well as allowing traffic laws to catch up to the technology.
Despite the concern that autonomous vehicles might wipe out truck driver jobs one day, there is actually a major market demand for truck drivers to make up the current driver shortage that is expected to grow in the years to come. For new drivers and experienced drivers alike, a quick look at truck driver agency postings is enough to see that there are plenty of trucking jobs to be had!