Not long ago, something that once would have seemed like science fiction took place at the port of Rotterdam in Europe. A fleet of self-driving trucks made its way across Europe, winding up at the port without any major incidents along the way. This innovative technology is poised to change the shipping industry – both in terms of the number of people that it employs and the amount of money that it costs to move products from one location to another.
With today’s technology, the cost of shipping a truck filled with goods from Los Angeles to New York comes in at about $4,500. Labor accounts for nearly 3/4 of the total cost. Because automated trucks don’t require drivers, those labor costs will essentially be eliminated, dramatically reducing the cost of shipping.
Additionally, self-driving vehicles can stay on the road around-the-clock. Unlike human drivers who are limited to spending no more than 11 hours each day on the road, automated trucks can operate continuously. This can dramatically improve the overall output of the existing transportation network in the United States.
Another benefit of automated trucks is that they use fuel more efficiently. In terms of fuel efficiency, the optimal speed that a truck should travel at is approximately 45 mph. With human drivers, this speed is often exceeded, simply because truck drivers get paid by the mile. Automated trucks also are being designed to travel behind each other on the road, effectively creating “trains” on the highway. This helps reduce wind resistance, improving fuel efficiency as a result.
As this technology is implemented, consumers should see lower costs for many of the products that they purchase according to autonomous auto reports. Once the cost of transporting goods becomes lower, retailers can charge lower prices while still earning a profit.
Automated trucks are also expected to improve highway safety. Most traffic accidents that occur today are caused by human error. Traffic accidents that involve commercial trucks are surprisingly common, resulting in many fatalities each year. In fact, truck driving is one of the most dangerous jobs in the US, with more truckers being killed each year than any other profession.
From a work standpoint, being a truck driver is far from easy. Few young people are entering the field, simply because the work is so difficult. 55 is the average age of today’s truck drivers. Every year, this number climbs a little bit higher. Unless major changes are made to the industry, there is expected to be a shortage of qualified drivers in the near future.
Of course, not everything about self-driving trucks is positive. One of the major concerns about this technology is that it will put a lot of truck drivers out of work. 1.6 million people in the U.S. alone make their living driving trucks. In fact, it is the most common profession in almost 30 different states.
When this technology is fully implemented, close to 1% of all of the workers in the US will lose their jobs. Additionally, businesses like roadside diners, motels, and gas stations will also suffer from the loss of business.
The recent event in Europe shows just how close this technology is to becoming mainstream. At this point, the only things really standing in the way of automated trucks are regulations and infrastructure changes. These trucks may require special on and off ramps. They also will have to have special lanes that are completely dedicated to them to avoid causing problems on the road. It is difficult to get support for the technology, as well, knowing that it will displace so many workers.
Inevitably, however, this technology will come into use. The positive benefits it offers are too good for businesses to pass up. Not only will it benefit businesses but it will also benefit consumers, leading to an improvement in well-being. Imagine how different the world would be today if modern agricultural equipment had never been developed because of all the farmers it would have displaced. Similar changes are likely to happen in the trucking industry.