How Automated Truck Driving Impacts the Trucking Industry 

Strong Tie Insurance December 10, 2019 Commercial Truck Insurance

In the modern age, technology has impacted almost every industry. AI, machine learning, and robotics have completely transformed the 21st-century job market. For the trucking industry, automation is changing the game through self-driving trucks. With the new technology, commercial truck insurance companies are keeping their eyes on the topic to see what changes will need to be made to policies. 

How the Trucking Industry Is Using Automation

You’ve heard of self-driving cars, but what about self-driving trucks? Using much of the same technology as cars, self-driving trucks will automate the process of driving. Nowadays, we’re seeing more trucking companies investing in technology to make driving automated. Some trucks already have automated features, like GPS, cruise control, and speed adjustment. 

Impact of Automation on the Trucking Industry

Many people have speculated that with the addition of self-driving trucks, many truck drivers will lose their jobs. However, it’s important to know the facts of the impending industry change. 

The Value of Truck Drivers

Truck drivers do more than the simple act of driving trucks. While autonomous truck driving could take care of the driving aspect of the job, that’s not all truck drivers do. Truck drivers perform a variety of tasks, including but not limited to: checking vehicles and securing cargo, maintaining logs, and dealing with customers. Most of these tasks are not automatable, which means we will still need humans performing them.

There is no technology available for loading or unloading the trucks. The equipment currently used only helps to reduce the physical burden with unloading cargo. The truck drivers themselves still have to direct and oversee this task.

Customer service is another part of the job that cannot be automated, at least for quite some time. Truck drivers have to engage in customer service during the loading and unloading process. These customer service aspects of the job may be taken over by representatives or technology in the future. However, for the time being, truck drivers still have to maintain quality customer service standards.

There’s no argument that some duties are closer to automation than others. For example, checking for deflating tires and potential safety problems can be performed by sensors, similar to the low gas level light in a car. However, carrying out repairs on the road will require human intervention.

Other duties that may be automated are updating logbooks, invoicing, and paperwork. However, these duties didn’t take up tons of time for drivers, so complete automation of these processes wouldn’t have a significant impact on labor.

Read More: Driverless Trucks: What Trucking Companies Need to Know 

An Emphasis on Safety

One of the most important concerns for trucking companies is the safety of their employees. Truck drivers drive long hours on little or no sleep to make it to their weigh-ins, which means that there is a huge risk of accidents occurring. By adding automation features, like automated driving, the vehicle can take over the driving aspect in cases where there might be a danger. For example, if a driver falls asleep behind the wheel of the car, there will be less of a chance that they will crash.

By focusing on safety, trucking companies may be able to save on their truck insurance, so it’s an important consideration when it comes to automation. 

Full Automation is Far Away

Automated driving is about the task of driving itself, not any other duties that a truck driver may have to perform. The reality of automated driving may be different from what you’re thinking.

There are five levels of automation. Level 0 is no automation, and Level 5 is full automation. It’s important to consider the amount of human interaction. As the level of human interaction with the truck goes down, you go up a level of automation.

Headlines in the news may be dramatic and scare you when it comes to the state of the trucking industry because of automation. Several companies are developing a Level 4 automation for trucks with cost-effectiveness as the goal and decreasing the need for labor. This means that more and more companies will require fewer employees, and drivers may lose their jobs, or no new jobs will be created.

Most of the automation development has a primary focus on automating long-haul and interstate driving. This means that trucks that have to travel far distances may soon be more automated. However, short-haul or local trucking jobs will most likely not be affected.

Trucking fleet operators may also opt for automation. This includes for-hire and private carriers in the warehousing and transportation industries.

Automated Truck Driving is Ultimately Beneficial

Automated truck driving shouldn’t be looked at as a negative. Automation doesn’t mean that we’re eliminating the need for qualified truck drivers. Automated trucks will drive highway miles while human drivers take over for the last few miles through more complex roadways. The system is intended to reduce the mental workload on drivers and promote safety. Autonomous trucks will ultimately complement their human counterparts, not replace them.

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