There has been much talk lately about autonomous trucks and if they are going to take our jobs. The answer is yes, eventually. It will be decades before there is widespread use of these self-driving vehicles, though. There are even some groups trying to ban autonomous trucks entirely. I get it, you are scared but stopping technology is not the answer to anything. Did you know there were people who attempted to ban surgery because doctors "had no right to go in there and mess things up". If they would have won where would we be now? I think a better question is this: Do you have a right to your job no matter what technology comes along during your lifetime? Can we go to the government and demand that our job be kept no matter what happens around us? I think not.
Why decades for these self-driving trucks? There are several problems to overcome. They need to be able to work in all weather situations. As we know, the current systems shut off in a rainstorm and in snow, forget it. The sensor gets anything on it and it doesn't work. With no driver, they will need a system to keep this clean 24/7. The trucks need to talk to the infrastructure and to each other to tell the other vehicles what they are going to do. How long do you think it will take to replace all the road signs with signs that broadcast a signal to the trucks? Heck, it is 2 months to get a pothole filled. This will also require a reliable 5G network which is just now rolling out in a few cities. They also need to be able to program the computer to tell the difference between a stroller and a paper bag. That is not near as easy as it sounds.
How will all this start? It will start in the southwest where there are already trials that include a driver in the cab. Long routes on southern interstates are first. There will be pull off spots where a local driver will bring the trailer and hook up the autonomous truck. The truck will then take the load on the preplanned interstate to another pull off spot close to the destination. A local driver here will unhook the load and deliver it and the process starts over. Solo OTR drivers are the first to go. Teams will be next. Why solo first? They cost the company more money. Yes. That truck sits every night and costs the same as a team truck but brings in half or less of the revenue. This will slowly spread north until much of the interstate system is covered. Remember, reliable ultra-fast 5G service is required. Look at the signal you get away from populated areas now. The final part will be dock to dock service. This is by far the most difficult part of the deal. Docks near the interstate are first. Companies may move to these areas to lower shipping costs. The beginnings of this are decades away and not every load will work with this. Flat, oversized, cattle and specialty trucks may never be automated as it would be too difficult because of the actual labor involved in the load. More on this in anther blog.
See you on the road!
Hi! Welcome. I'm Mark and I've been a professional truck driver for over 33 years, the last 19 years at the same company. It is time that drivers got paid for every minute that we work and we are treated like the licensed professionals we are.