Driverless Trucks: What Trucking Companies Need to Know 

Strong Tie Insurance October 29, 2019 Commercial Truck Insurance

What’s known as self-driving cars are quickly going to market, which made companies think of the next step: the trucking industry. Commercial truck insurance providers are keeping their eyes on the controversial topic of driverless trucks.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 90% of all accidents are caused by driver error. Eliminating possible risks like distracted driving and falling asleep at the wheel can eliminate claims payouts and lower premiums. However, in the future, there would be other factors that insurers need to address.

The trucking industry itself is worried about a few other aspects of autonomous trucks.

What is a Self-Driving Truck?

A self-driving truck is like an autonomous car; only the trucks are used for the trucking industry and not for everyday driving. Since 2017, companies have started emerging with a focus on driverless trucks. You may remember Uber having a focus on the industry; however, since 2018, they have shut down their driverless trucks division to focus on cars.

The purpose of these new technologies is to benefit the trucking industry by improving productivity, fuel efficiency costs, and traffic.

A misconception that many people have is due to one of the names of the autonomous truck: Driverless. Many people believe that there will soon be no need for a trucker to be in the truck. However, others say that it’s an absolute necessity that there is also a human behind the wheel of a self-driving truck.

Will Autonomous Trucks Replace Drivers?

Many truckers are worried about their jobs being lost to self-driving trucks, and many leaders in the industry agree that these trucks could phase out trucking jobs and save the industry money. However, there are tons of problems we have to face when it comes to replacing drivers entirely in the trucking industry.

The technology for these vehicles is quickly developing, but the technology is not yet proven. Many of the tests are under monitored situations, like being surrounded by law enforcement and other vehicles to prevent possible accidents. Also, these technologies are not yet equipped to deal with the variety of driving situations that a thinking, feeling human can. As of right now, many companies are still putting people in truck cabins to ensure safety.

Another thing to consider is that most truck drivers are over the age of 50, according to a recent report. By the time the technology is fully implemented and the laws around autonomous trucks have been perfected, the majority of truck drivers will have reached the age of retirement. There won’t be as many job losses in trucking once we are ready to switch to driverless trucks.

Could Self-Driving Trucks Be Good for Truckers?

While some do believe that driverless trucks may replace drivers, others believe that trucking jobs will not be lost to autonomous driving. In fact, many of the big players believe that there may be an increase in jobs available in the trucking industry as more self-driving vehicles come to market.

People automatically jump to the conclusion that driverless trucks are, in fact, driverless. This isn’t the case. What this really means for the trucking industry is that self-driving trucks drive highway miles, and human drivers take over for the last few miles through more complex terrain. In a sense, autonomous trucks may complement humans, not replace them, making the job safer.

For trucking companies, self-driving trucks used efficiently may drive down the cost of freight. This lower cost will stimulate demand and lead to more business, which is good for both trucking companies and their employees.

Remember, every self-driving truck needs a human behind the wheel to improve the safety and accuracy of driving. In such a case, if more freight is on the roads, more humans will be required to be in the trucks through local areas, actually increasing the need for truck drivers. The more utilization, the more jobs created.

Truckers are more than they seem. They do not just operate trucks on highways. Their jobs require a variety of skills and the ability to navigate through physical and social environments, which an autonomous vehicle cannot.

On the other side of the argument, many trucking companies are putting out their own reports that say jobs will be lost. However, again, consider the capabilities of a human trucker. For example, in the event of a minor vehicle breakdown, an autonomous vehicle cannot fix itself, but a trucker knows basic fixes and repairs to get a truck back on the road.

Making Truckers’ Lives Better

The major focus for trucking companies should be making their employees’ lives much easier. There is currently a shortage of truck drivers, and that number is only expected to drop because the jobs are difficult– mentally, emotionally, and economically. One of the biggest problems is that young people joining the workforce are not willing to stay away from their family for months on end.

However, self-driving trucks could solve this problem. With “truck ports,” drivers would be able to stay closer to home. These ports, or hubs, are a new idea on short-haul trucking.

For many reasons, truckers dread short-haul trucking, but the inception of hubs could end up creating good local jobs. However, there are still a lot of disagreeing sides to the equation.

What is known is that self-driving trucks will change the entire framework of the trucking industry. While predictions from executives at large companies who process data provide insight, only the truckers themselves understand the chaos of life behind the wheel. They can rest assured that human truckers will never truly be replaced by artificial intelligence.

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