- Truck drivers are uneasy with a feeling they'll be among the first to go as driverless technology takes hold, Axios reported Wednesday.
- While trucking remains a complex job with loading and unloading, job loss opportunities may begin with an autonomous vehicle platooning with a human-driven vehicle, particularly in the long-haul, or a single company pioneering widespread adoption.
- However, automation could also make the jobs easier and will not happen overnight. Axios notes carriers, developers and drivers all play a role in ensuring the trucking industry adapts to disruption, rather than waiting to be disrupted.
Skeptics of the technology argue robots cannot load and unload or manage complex road circumstances, like snow, heavy rain and ill-paved roads, so even if the technology takes hold jobs will remain secure.
But Axios argues disruption can come in various ways, and job loss will come gradually rather than all at once. Some perceive the automation of vehicles as the start of a major disruption, wherein technology as a whole is blamed for job loss, with unknown consequences and little job security remaining.
Taking note, as of December 2016, The White House was carefully tracking the proliferation of driverless vehicles, in hopes of acting quickly to reintegrate drivers into comparably-paying positions. The White House noted a loss of jobs may be inevitable, so the government and companies should invest in retraining efforts to minimize the effects.
The first step of retraining or adopting to the disruption is to know where and which jobs are most in danger. To visualize this, Axios created a map based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data showing the national distribution of trucking jobs, per country.
The map shows that, in recent years, trucking work has migrated west, following oil, or fracking, to be precise. The current largest concentration of trucking work is in Dunn, North Dakota, with a ratio of 158 trucking jobs out of 267 available driving positions. Throughout the Midwest and East and Gulf coasts, trucking positions are surprisingly minimal, being lightly distributed even near ports and rail yards.
The rise of automated vehicles presents many challenges for the trucking industry, but also opportunity. New technology may force change, but optimists argue this change could free human resources to more productive tasks, even within the truck.