PTIO Submits Comments to DOT on Impact of AV Technologies on Workforce

Washington, D.C.— This week, the Partnership for Transportation Innovation and Opportunity (PTIO) – whose members include American Trucking Associations, Daimler, FedEx, Ford, Lyft, Toyota Motor North America, Uber,and Waymo – responded to the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Request for Comments on the scope of a congressionally-directed analysis on the impact of automated vehicle technologies (AV) on the workforce.

“PTIO’s top priority is to identify and encourage adoption of policies and programs that will help connect individuals with AV-related economic benefits,” said PTIO Executive Director Maureen Westphal. “Collaboration among industry, government, academia, and other stakeholders is critical to ensure there are opportunities for all workers during the transition to an AV future. An evidence-based understanding of the interplay between AVs and the workforce is fundamental to this mission, so we are grateful to Congress and DOT for pursuing the study and for allowing us the opportunity to provide recommendations on its scope. PTIO and its members stand ready and willing to assist the agency as it conducts its analysis, and we look forward to continued opportunities for collaboration as we all work together to improve quality of life and economic opportunity for all Americans.”

Summary of PTIO’s Comments:

–      As the study explores possible AV-related labor force transformation and the pace in which it may occur, PTIO suggests that the agencies focus on job opportunities that will arise from AV manufacturing and deployment, including an analysis of new jobs, which will be created in the different stages of AV adoption. This information is vital in developing strategies to assist displaced workers and facilitate the transition into sustainable and long-term career paths.

–      Equally important is setting labor force training needs.  PTIO recommends that the agencies explore how industry and employers may help identify and bridge any gaps in proposed training programs designed to connect workers with opportunities in the new economy.

–      Understanding what motivates incumbent workers either to take advantage of employer-provided training and educational help or to seek reskilling opportunities is also critical. PTIO hopes the agencies will research these factors so stakeholders can better understand how individuals will respond to an evolving workplace.

–      Further, PTIO urges the agencies to explore the quality-of-life benefits associated with AV technology.  A detailed analysis of this information will be critical in developing tomorrow’s workforce.

o   In the trucking industry, for example, AV technology represents an opportunity to enhance jobs and improve working conditions.

o   AVs may additionally serve to broaden employment opportunities for those without either a personal vehicle or access to public transportation.

To read PTIO’s full comments as submitted to DOT, click here.

Heartland Tech Weekly: Preparing the trucking industry for driverless vehicles

Last week, I attended an event hosted by The Atlantic on the future of work. One of the discussions centered around autonomous trucking — whether driverless trucks are really just years away from being deployed on the roads, and how to prepare drivers for an industry poised to experience technological disruption.

After the event, I followed up with the panelists — Hilary Cain, Director of Technology and Innovation Policy at Toyota, and Jay Lim, VP of Workforce Development Policy at the American Trucking Association. They’re both members of the Partnership for Transportation, Innovation and Opportunity (PTIO), a group formed in the summer to explore the potential implications of autonomous technology on the future of work.

One of the things we talk about a lot here in the Heartland tech section is the potential for automation to both destroy jobs, and create new ones. So I wanted to press Cain and Lim further on the idea of how trucking jobs will look different thanks to automation. Both of them think that it will still be a couple decades before driverless trucks are widely deployed on the roads — but that it’s important to start thinking now about developing new workforce training programs.

What’s interesting about the trucking industry is that it’s already facing hiring challenges — the trucking industry is expected to have a shortage of 50,000 workers by the end of 2018. Additionally, 890,000 drivers are expected to retire over the next decade, the consequence of having an older workforce — the average age of the trucker is 49, 7 years older than that of the average American worker. Lim told me that when the ATA typically surveys students and other potential recruits to understand their hesitations or conceptions about the trucking industry, automation isn’t one of top three concerns.

“It’s more concerns about being away from home, or some people just don’t know what truck drivers do, and there’s a social stigma that affects a lot of the people that we’re trying to recruit and their parents — their parents don’t necessarily want their children to go into a blue collar industry, much less trucking,” Lim told VentureBeat.

PTIO is eager to talk about how in trucking — like in other industries — automation will eliminate routine tasks, while placing a greater reliance on soft skills. Both Cain and Lim say that there’s already a “a wide array of non-driving duties that truckers perform on a daily basis” like securing cargo, conducting pre-trip and post-trip inspections, interacting with shippers and receivers, weighing loads, that they believe truckers will still need to do even if they no longer need to drive the vehicle.

But while autonomous vehicle developers and trucking executives have ideas on what new types of skills will be valued, no one really knows for certain what new types of jobs will be created. That limits some of the work that can be done now to develop the necessary workforce training programs.

Still, PTIO is forging ahead — the group has held listening sessions over the summer and through the fall with local employers, politicians and other stakeholders to lay the groundwork necessary to create scalable training programs. They’re finding that collaboration is key — something that likely won’t come as a surprise to the readers of this newsletter. But just because certain groups know they have to work together, doesn’t make the road ahead any more smooth.

“What we are noticing is that successful workforce development programs in various industries inevitably include strong collaboration between the private sector and the education community,” Cain told VentureBeat. “These two groups will need to work together to better align education and training programs with careers pathways.”

What do you think trucking jobs will look like in the age of automation?  If you live in a state with a large trucking industry — what are your thoughts on what’s needed to prepare workers to deal with automation? You can also sign up here for VentureBeat’s Heartland Tech newsletter to get this column in your inbox weekly.

As always, thanks for reading, and send me your thoughts via email.

Anna Hensel
Heartland Tech Reporter