Why Trucking Isn’t Suited For Full Automation

Automation is sweeping the country and threatening jobs in all industries. Over the past few years, there has been a lot of talk about automation in the trucking industry. Some analysts have predicted the demise of trucking due to technology advancements within the next five to 10 years.

However, according to a recent report from The Brookings Institution, the trucking industry may not be suited for automation at all. Even though automated trucks are being developed and tested, automation isn’t proven to work for trucking.

Truckers hold the most common occupation in more than half of the states in the U.S., so the addition of automated trucks to the industry would lead to significant job losses.

Although truck manufacturers, including Daimler, have already developed autonomous trucks, there are still regulatory and logistical hurdles they need to clear before they can be used for transporting freight.

Industry experts also say the conversation in the trucking industry tends to overemphasize the technology while oversimplifying the complex set of labor concerns. This is another reason trucking jobs aren’t likely to disappear anytime soon.

Truckers use a wide set of skills to perform their jobs. Plus, there are a variety of different truck drivers, including heavy tractor trailer drivers and delivery truck drivers. Each truck driver has to have a specific skill set to perform their jobs properly. Truck drivers don’t only sit behind the wheel all day and drive. They also inspect freight loads, fix equipment and make deliveries – things an autonomous truck can’t do.

According to the Department of Labor’s O*NET database, which classifies jobs, truckers have a low degree of automation compared to most occupations. O*NET surveys workers in a variety of occupations. Jobs with simple, repetitive tasks, like telephone operation, are better suited for automated technologies. Truck drivers and delivery drivers fall on the lower half of the scale for automation:

Trucking automation graph

Even when autonomous trucks hit the market, truckers will still be needed. It is important to not confuse truck drivers with the entire trucking industry. The trucking industry won’t be fully automated as many analysts predict because many supporting jobs will still be needed. Also, many new complementary jobs will emerge to oversee these new trucks.

Check out some of our past blogs to learn more about emerging trucking technologies:

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