Self-driving cars. Autonomous vehicles. Driverless trucks. Whatever you call it, the future of transportation is both exciting and a little scary. It can be especially nerve-wracking if you’re someone who drives for a living. Yet while the widespread adoption of automated vehicles (AVs) may seem inevitable, truckers won’t be so easily pushed out of the driver’s seat! At least not for the next few decades. Here are 4 Reasons Why Truckers Are Here to Stay!
1. AVs Are Not Commercially Available
Despite all the news stories about every OEM developing some kind of driverless technology, there really aren’t that many AVs out there, and virtually none are on the road. To be sure, production of big rigs with automated features will continue to grow. But as we’ve outlined previously, there are different levels of self-driving automation, and production in the immediate future will continue to focus on lower levels, which still need a human driver. A Frost & Sullivan analysis predicts that there will still be ZERO fully-autonomous Level 4 or 5 trucks on the road by 2025, and only 300 on the job by 2035. It will be decades before companies can even begin to think about replacing their driver workforce; and even then they will still need qualified professionals along for the ride (see #3).
2. The Public Does Not Trust AVs
Even when fully-autonomous technology is available, public perception will slow its entrance onto the road. A recent AAA survey found that 54% of drivers would feel less safe sharing the road with AVs. Serious concern about accidents caused by computer glitches or hacking will likely encourage laws and regulations that compel manufacturers to implement and prove stringent safety and security failsafes. The process of development and testing will take time. Already, widely-publicized AV accidents have significantly set back the self-driving industry. Although airplanes largely fly themselves, people still want a pilot in the cockpit. And they still want truckers in the cab.
3. AVs Still Need Humans
Trucks at lower levels of self-driving automation have limited use. Extreme weather, malfunctioning technology, or abnormal lane markings can require a driver to take back control of the vehicle. Truckers also do so much more than drive, as you well know. Among the range of critical trucker tasks that cannot be done by a computer: handling cargo loading and unloading, inspecting and securing freight between arrival and departure, responding to emergencies, repairing equipment and the truck itself, signing bills of lading and delivery, and much more. The Alliance for Driver Safety & Security agrees that drivers in the age of AVs will remain integral to supply chain accountability and efficiency. And fully-autonomous trucking will come with new non-driving responsibilities for an on-board human to complete, from simple office work to managing vehicle analytics and emerging technology.
4. Innovation Attracts Drivers
Rather than pushing truckers away, new technology could actually bring more individuals into the industry. By making the job easier and safer, AVs can reduce stress, break up monotony, and improve health. Improving the quality of life for drivers, in addition to the “cool” factor of using futuristic technology, may help attract a new generation of truckers. While Millennials and Baby Boomers alike are very cautious about driverless cars, many more young adults (70%) are willing to give the technology a chance. If trucking is to have a future, we need rising generations to join us in the cab; automated innovation may be just the way to attract them.
The profession of truck-driving is not disappearing any time soon. Truckers will still be needed for many more decades and, though the job may change and require us to adapt, there is no replacing a good driver.
What do you think? Leave us a comment below – are you worried about the rise of AVs?