There’s potential for a new business model to make its way through the freight industry’s doors in years to come! Many businesses within the trucking world are beginning to write autonomous trucks into their game plans. So, what does this mean for businesses, their drivers, and the industry as a whole?
For businesses, this would be a great advancement in technology—if it’s done right! Having freight run autonomously from people (or at least less involvement with people) will create the need to adjust the hours-of-service regulations to accommodate the automated driving systems. A realistic business model in the upcoming years may look like truck drivers and automated trucking systems performing as a team. The truck may focus on the driving tasks while the person works on other tasks.
As for truck drivers, this technological advancement may seem like a threat to jobs. However, it should not be perceived this way. The process of truly integrating autonomous trucks into the industry will take years into decades to perfect. None of the technologies on the market at this point will ever be able to replace an active, alert, professional driver. The level at which people want autonomous trucks to perform at is merely an idea and will take decades to complete such a level of efficiency.
Introducing autonomous trucks may also improve driver recruiting and retention. One big issue for drivers is the desire to have a good work/life balance. If the industry can get self-driving trucks on long hauls, this can shift driver jobs to regional and local operations, allowing for more time at home.
A current issue in the freight industry is the high rate of driver turnover, as well as driver shortage. With the implementation of autonomous trucks, businesses will be able to bridge the gap with little to no struggle. Along with this, autonomous trucks will make it possible for fleet operators to haul freight without being constrained by driver hours-of-service limits. This also creates the benefit of better, and more predictable fuel efficiency. Using self-driving trucks will be most useful for long hauls, as well as hub-to-hub work.
Safety is the number one concern that will be taken into consideration while this futuristic project is underway. Industry professionals see this as something that will start out small in the beginning years, both in freight volumes and capabilities. It will take years of test trials until the technology can assure that autonomous trucking will be safe for the roads and the people driving them.
While it may take some time to get there, it is an exciting journey the industry is taking to make the next biggest thing in freight!