White House: At least 80% of trucking jobs are at risk of automation

Dive Brief:

  • A recent report from the Executive Office of the President found 80-100% of heavy-duty truck drivers' jobs are at risk of loss due to automated technology, Quartz reported Tuesday.
  • While automation may provide new economic opportunities by increasing availability for employees who drive as part of their job, full-time drivers may face total loss of their job.
  • The White House notes reintegrating drivers into a driverless society would require active government intervention via education programs that would allow drivers to retain high pay despite automation.

Dive Insight:

The White House's second report on automation and its effect on the economy provides a clear warning for those employed in the trucking industry or as contract drivers, given the rapid speed of technological advancement.

Yet, the absence of a timeline highlights the clear lack of certainty on the true effect, since the success of self-driving vehicles will depend not just on technological availability, but also pricing, available infrastructure and industry willingness to change. Each of these factors can severely delay implementation, even as economic benefits are highlighted.

In just one example, truck drivers successfully challenged mandated Electronic Logging Device implementation for decades, successfully arguing (at least twice) there was no clear evidence the technology improved safety. A similar argument is currently being made on the proliferation of self-driving trucks, as opponents claim the safety benefits of self-driving trucks can only be achieved absent of neighboring human error, which would require a autonomous-vehicle-only road, for example.

As a result, those testing autonomous technology still require truck drivers to be present. And developers of self-driving vehicles do not expect to commercialize until the next decade. The technology is still in its infancy.

However, the purpose of the report is not to spark fear among operators, but to provide a basis of evidence by which the government can react to when fully autonomous vehicles are commercialized, which could potentially leave thousands jobless. 

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Filed Under: Technology