Re “Truckers gather at Capitol to push for new bill prohibiting driverless trucks,” Aug. 20.
PTIO – whose members include the American Trucking Associations, Daimler, FedEx, Ford, Lyft, Toyota Motor North America, Uber, UPS, and Waymo – formed in June 2018 with a commitment to advance AV technology in ways that improve quality of life and economic opportunity for all Americans. We support innovation in the transportation sector and the commonsense adoption of AVs, and our mission includes identifying how deployment of the technology will bring improvements to the way we connect people, goods, and services, while also addressing any challenges that could arise for some workers.
One area where we know automation will help is in addressing truck driver shortages – context that has been left out in recent articles. According to the American Trucking Associations, America had a shortage of 51,000 truck drivers at the end of last year. That statistic is compounded by the fact that the median age of a long-haul trucker is 49 years old – seven years older than the median U.S. worker.
Additionally, several recent studies indicate that the transition from traditional to autonomous vehicles will take time, particularly in the case of trucks. The most aggressive AV adoption models project that fully autonomous trucks will not be in the mainstream until the early 2030s, while a more conservative analysis projects that fully autonomous trucks under all conditions are expected to only move forward in the 2040s.
Another study similarly found that the transition to automation in the trucking industry is expected to be gradual and that largely self-functioning, highly automated vehicles will not reach a high level of penetration in the trucking industry within the next decade.
Moreover, researchers found that AVs are largely expected to supplement rather than substitute vehicle operators even at the highest levels of automation; that said, they do forecast changes to skills required of a driver in order to support and maintain the technology associated with an automated truck.
Importantly, the forecasted deployment timeline affords policymakers and stakeholders the opportunity to pursue policies that reflect a comprehensive understanding of what the workforce transition will entail. (See: Freightwaves: “Automation is inevitable but will not displace driver jobs: IRU’s global innovation head”; CNBC: “The trucking industry needs more drivers to meet rising demand, especially from retailers who are under pressure to deliver to customers as fast as Amazon.”)
While there is time to be deliberate and thoughtful in our approach, PTIO does feel a sense of urgency to engage with impacted communities across the country. In fact, we recently convened a town-hall style event in Missouri where we brought together local leaders and other stakeholders for a discussion on the impacts of AVs, including workforce implications. To learn more, check out this article about the event in the local paper, and view an archived livestream of the event on our website.