Automation Backfires on Trucking Industry

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Automation is placing the trucking industry in dire peril — but no how the media predicted. The number of truck drivers is plummeting, and new truck drivers are too few to make up for the decline. The trucking industry is headed to its biggest driver shortage in a few years — partly because of the fear of automation.

On the Brink of Collapse

Almost every trucking company is short on drivers. Trucks are left unused, and shipments are delayed for lack of a driver. The situation will be even grimmer in 5-10 years. Most truck drivers are over the age of 55. Although some will continue after reaching 65 — most will retire within a few years. An older driver population increases the risk of accidents. Trucking companies are forced to weigh their need for drivers and the potential liabilities they can accrue. While the number of drivers is declining — the demand on the industry keeps getting higher. Close to 70 percent of consumer goods in the US are moved by trucks, and online shopping has only increased the volume. As Americans move from retail to online shopping — the demand for more truck drivers will undoubtedly increase. Experts estimate that the trucking industry will need an additional 900,000 truckers to meet the rising demand.

Automation Fears

man driving a truck

Automation doomsayers, the media, and even a few politicians predicted the demise of trucking jobs due to automation. Fear of automation taking over trucking jobs have discouraged potential drivers from entering the industry. Trucking companies are quick to point out that automation will only aid — and not replace — truck drivers. Automation in trucks only serves as a more advanced cruise control system — maintaining optimum speeds for better mileage on certain parts of the highway. It acts like the autopilot of an airplane — taking over for the driver only when conditions are relatively clear. Automation in aircraft has been around for decades — but pilots don’t fear for their jobs. It’s even harder to make automated systems for trucks compared to planes. There are hardly any hazards in the air — no other vehicles or obstacles, and the journey usually takes a straight line.

Great Opportunities for New Drivers

Competition and desperation have forced trucking companies to increase wages and provide better benefits to lure in new drivers and keep the ones they have. Truckers now make $80,000 or more each year, and even entry-level truckers receive wages of $45,000-$50,000. Trucking companies are doing all they can to fill up their ranks with new drivers through aggressive recruitment campaigns,driver leasing agreements, and trade school sponsorship. A commercial driver’s license or CDL program only takes six months to finish — but you need to be 21 or older to get the high-paying long-haul jobs.

Automation will only make a trucker’s job easier — but fear of automation have made truck drivers rare and in-demand. As the trucking industry lies on the brink of collapse because of its aging driver demographic — new drivers can take advantage of the situation and leverage higher wages and better deals.

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