Automated Trucks/Future Of Truck Drivers

Topic 10892 | Page 1

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18 Wheels of Steel's Comment
member avatar

I've been in my Truck Driving course for a few weeks now. It's a 20 week course put on by a local college. So far, I've been pretty happy with my choice. We were assigned to do a little research into the truck driver shortage. What I saw was great, at first. Something like 80,000 drivers needed, and expected to grow to something like 180,000 by 2024. Great news for someone wanting to get into a truck driving career, right? A truck driver's salary should remain strong.

Until I noticed a little caveat about ways the industry could solve the problem. There was the expected solutions: higher pay to entice more people to take up driving, offering more time at home, etc. But what caught my eye was the idea for self-driving trucks. At first glance, I thought this was silly. Letting a computer control an 80,000 lb rig? Turns out that they already exist. Automated driving tech actually seems to be quite refined. My endless optimism, it seems, has been somewhat blunted.

So I turn to the experts. Is this something that threatens to knock out the truck driving career? I have no doubts that at some point in the future, technology will get to the point where drivers will be no longer needed. But how long? 10 years? 20, 50, 100? I would hope to get a good 30 or with some good fortune 40 years out of this gig. After screwing around for 10 years of my adult life, it's like I got myself together, committed to a good career choice, and it would be the worst luck to have something like this come along and screw it all up.

Or perhaps I'm just overthinking the whole deal, something I've been known to do. It's super easy now that I feel like I finally got things going in the right direction. When things are going well, it is real easy to start thinking about things that could screw it up.

Kieran L.'s Comment
member avatar
Great Answer!

Even the so-called "automated truck" prototypes that have been built so far or are being developed absolutely still require a driver on board. I read all about it recently somewhere, I might find the article later, but the company developing the automation expressly conveyed that this will NOT replace truck drivers, but simply make their jobs easier. Currently, they say the trucks will still require full manual driving in city limits and for most backing and maneuvering, but that the automated systems can keep the truck on route and at the proper legal speed for the road while on the interstate. Basically truck drivers of the future will be able to drive their load out and get on the highway, then set the "autopilot" and relax until it alerts the driver its time to resume control. Also, given the expense and the potential liability of a failure of such a system, I don't think we'll be seeing the demise of the truck driver's job anytime soon.

Trucking is still a good career. :)

Interstate:

Commercial trade, business, movement of goods or money, or transportation from one state to another, regulated by the Federal Department Of Transportation (DOT).

Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar
Great Answer!

First of all, the driver shortage isn't an actual shortage of people capable of being drivers. It's a shortage of drivers willing to work at today's wages. If you raised the wages considerably there would be no shortage of drivers. So the shortage is a good thing in a way because there are indeed a ton of jobs available all the time. The bad news is that the shortage is because the pay is awful low considering the job requirements and risks involved. In the end many companies choose to spend more money on recruiting drivers and less money on wages.

The automated trucks are not going to eliminate the need for drivers anytime soon. As was mentioned, airplanes have been able to fly themselves for a very long time and yet you still see a pilot and co-pilot in the plane.

The bigger problem for anyone considering a long term career in trucking is the pay. The pay, when adjusted for inflation, has continued to go down for decades. When I started in '93 drivers were making about the same as they are today. When adjusted for inflation, that's very bad news. Today a driver would have to make about $64,000 to have the same spending power as $40,000 had in 1993. Unfortunately the average first year driver makes a little more than half of that.

This chart is from 2013:

truck driver's pay chart by year when adjusted for inflation

In the past two years pay has bumped up a bit with several major carriers raising their pay rates. But it isn't enough to make a huge difference and it doesn't mean a new trend in higher pay is coming.

Automating more of the driving process with features like automatic transmissions and computerized control systems is only going to help keep driver pay low I'm afraid. And of course the utter lack of good paying blue collar jobs and the struggle to land work even with a four year college degree is also keeping downward pressure on driver wages.

There will be plenty of driving jobs available for many years to come but the pay isn't going to get much better I'm afraid. I personally have always felt that the travelling lifestyle is really what makes trucking worth doing. The pay alone really isn't what it needs to be when you consider the demands of the job and the risks involved. But the travelling lifestyle is truly priceless if you're into that kind of thing (which I very much was) and you're not going to find that many other places.

OOS:

When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

Pastor C.'s Comment
member avatar

I've been in my Truck Driving course for a few weeks now. It's a 20 week course put on by a local college. So far, I've been pretty happy with my choice. We were assigned to do a little research into the truck driver shortage. What I saw was great, at first. Something like 80,000 drivers needed, and expected to grow to something like 180,000 by 2024. Great news for someone wanting to get into a truck driving career, right?

Until I noticed a little caveat about ways the industry could solve the problem. There was the expected solutions: higher pay to entice more people to take up driving, offering more time at home, etc. But what caught my eye was the idea to automate. At first glance, I thought this was silly. Letting a computer control an 80,000 lb rig? Turns out that they already exist. Automated driving tech actually seems to be quite refined. My endless optimism, it seems, has been somewhat blunted.

So I turn to the experts. Is this something that threatens to knock out the truck driving career? I have no doubts that at some point in the future, technology will get to the point where drivers will be no longer needed. But how long? 10 years? 20, 50, 100? I would hope to get a good 30 or with some good fortune 40 years out of this gig. After screwing around for 10 years of my adult life, it's like I got myself together, committed to a good career choice, and it would be the worst luck to have something like this come along and screw it all up.

Or perhaps I'm just overthinking the whole deal, something I've been known to do. It's super easy now that I feel like I finally got things going in the right direction. When things are going well, it is real easy to start thinking about things that could screw it up.

I hope not. I want a career not a job, that is why I am choosing trucking. I love to drive and driving for a living seems perfect.

OOS:

When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

18 Wheels of Steel's Comment
member avatar
I hope not. I want a career not a job, that is why I am choosing trucking. I love to drive and driving for a living seems perfect.

That's what I'm saying. It's perfect. I love to drive, I can drive for long periods of time without a problem. (sure beats just riding while someone else is driving. Boring!) Being by myself for weeks isn't a big deal since I am a solitary person by nature. Either way, I'm pretty much committed now. But it would be pretty lame to have to go and switch careers after training then doing this for awhile.

OOS:

When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

The Persian Conversion's Comment
member avatar

This has been discussed before. The general consensus seems to be that it will be many years before any type of automation becomes an industry standard. And even then, drivers will still be needed.

Think of it this way: has autopilot eliminated the need for skilled pilots?

18 Wheels of Steel's Comment
member avatar
Think of it this way: has autopilot eliminated the need for skilled pilots?

This is true. I know I'm just probably being a worry wart. I'm just pumped about my career choice, even though I know it won't be all sunshine and rainbows, especially at first. I'd just hate to see something out of my control come along and ruin it. It doesn't help that good paying blue collar jobs disappearing in part due to automation is like the main story of my location.

SAP:

Substance Abuse Professional

The Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) is a person who evaluates employees who have violated a DOT drug and alcohol program regulation and makes recommendations concerning education, treatment, follow-up testing, and aftercare.

Sonnydogg's Comment
member avatar

Whenever I think about this subject, I think about all the probs we have with just a PC crashing and freezing up. I think auto-pilot just flys the plane. No take offs, landings, curbs, slippery roads or idiot 4 wheelers to deal with. I personally think it's decades away, at least. And, they'd have to be hack proof! Can you imagine letting a gas tanker on the loose? Whoa!

OOS:

When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

Kieran L.'s Comment
member avatar
Great Answer!

Even the so-called "automated truck" prototypes that have been built so far or are being developed absolutely still require a driver on board. I read all about it recently somewhere, I might find the article later, but the company developing the automation expressly conveyed that this will NOT replace truck drivers, but simply make their jobs easier. Currently, they say the trucks will still require full manual driving in city limits and for most backing and maneuvering, but that the automated systems can keep the truck on route and at the proper legal speed for the road while on the interstate. Basically truck drivers of the future will be able to drive their load out and get on the highway, then set the "autopilot" and relax until it alerts the driver its time to resume control. Also, given the expense and the potential liability of a failure of such a system, I don't think we'll be seeing the demise of the truck driver's job anytime soon.

Trucking is still a good career. :)

Interstate:

Commercial trade, business, movement of goods or money, or transportation from one state to another, regulated by the Federal Department Of Transportation (DOT).

Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar
Great Answer!

First of all, the driver shortage isn't an actual shortage of people capable of being drivers. It's a shortage of drivers willing to work at today's wages. If you raised the wages considerably there would be no shortage of drivers. So the shortage is a good thing in a way because there are indeed a ton of jobs available all the time. The bad news is that the shortage is because the pay is awful low considering the job requirements and risks involved. In the end many companies choose to spend more money on recruiting drivers and less money on wages.

The automated trucks are not going to eliminate the need for drivers anytime soon. As was mentioned, airplanes have been able to fly themselves for a very long time and yet you still see a pilot and co-pilot in the plane.

The bigger problem for anyone considering a long term career in trucking is the pay. The pay, when adjusted for inflation, has continued to go down for decades. When I started in '93 drivers were making about the same as they are today. When adjusted for inflation, that's very bad news. Today a driver would have to make about $64,000 to have the same spending power as $40,000 had in 1993. Unfortunately the average first year driver makes a little more than half of that.

This chart is from 2013:

truck driver's pay chart by year when adjusted for inflation

In the past two years pay has bumped up a bit with several major carriers raising their pay rates. But it isn't enough to make a huge difference and it doesn't mean a new trend in higher pay is coming.

Automating more of the driving process with features like automatic transmissions and computerized control systems is only going to help keep driver pay low I'm afraid. And of course the utter lack of good paying blue collar jobs and the struggle to land work even with a four year college degree is also keeping downward pressure on driver wages.

There will be plenty of driving jobs available for many years to come but the pay isn't going to get much better I'm afraid. I personally have always felt that the travelling lifestyle is really what makes trucking worth doing. The pay alone really isn't what it needs to be when you consider the demands of the job and the risks involved. But the travelling lifestyle is truly priceless if you're into that kind of thing (which I very much was) and you're not going to find that many other places.

OOS:

When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

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