Insights & News

Automated Trucking May Replace Up to 300,000 Trucking Jobs (But it Won’t Lower Your Rates Anytime Soon)

Trucks at Sunrise

Posted On September 14, 2018

Steve Viscelli, a University of Pennsylvania sociologist and author of The Big Rig: Trucking and the Decline of the American Dream, recently published a study projecting the loss of up to 300,000 jobs in the next 25 years due to autonomous long-haul trucking. It’s important to note that Viscelli’s projections are considered by many to be conservative, with some transportation experts predicting higher job losses far sooner than 2043.

Of course, those of us who work in supply chain management, logistics, shipping, and transportation know that a projection of 300,000 job losses (or more) doesn’t mean that there will be 300,000 formerly hard-working truckers who can no longer feed their families. The reality is that autonomous trucking is such a topic of interest within our industry because there is a chronic shortage of drivers that won’t end anytime soon, and that shortage of truckers plays an important role in steadily increasing shipping rates.

Like the driver shortage, most experts do not see an end to increasing rates.

Autonomous trucking isn’t relatively trivial technology that will make our lives a bit more convenient, like an app that makes ordering shoes or pizzas easier. Our economy depends on the ability to move products around the country and around the globe as fast and as cost-efficiently as possible.

While some very innovative people are researching ways to make driving a truck for a living more appealing (including higher pay, better benefits, and a rebranding of what it means to be a trucker), autonomous technology will play a critical role in making supply chains more efficient and keeping shipping rates from becoming artificially inflated by chronic driver shortages.

Unfortunately, even if Viscelli’s projections end up being far, far too conservative and autonomous long-haul trucking becomes a reality in the next 7-10 years, that does nothing to solve the challenges related to the rate increases companies and shipping departments are dealing with right now.

While it’s important to know more about the trends and technology that might impact transportation managers in the next 5 or even 25 years, you need to do everything you can to make sure your supply chain is operating with peak efficiency, visibility, and profitability today.

Autonomous trucking has captured the imagination of both industry experts and the general public. It’s easy to see why. The vision of robotic trucks driving down the freeway with no driver behind the wheel is interesting, compelling, and even, for some, a little scary. However, any attempt to paint autonomous trucking as a potential disaster for truckers does not understand the demographics of our industry, including a rapidly aging workforce along with the shortage of new truckers.

Our industry needs autonomous trucking sooner rather than later, and one day—likely sooner than we think—it will be a reality.

Until then, the Flat World family of companies is here to help you thrive with the technology that exists today—including Pangea, Pipeline, and Hive, three of the most innovative transportation, logistics, and project management technology platforms on the market today. These solutions, available from Prologue Technology (a Flat World company), will help your shipping department build a high-performing supply chain that ensures your company stays ahead of the competition, until the day autonomous trucking arrives and changes supply chains across the world.

And when that day arrives, the Flat World family of companies will help your shipping department thrive in an era of driverless trucks.