Self-Driving Trucks: Wave of the Future
September 29, 2016
Author: Kody Fitzjerrells, Sales Executive
What comes to mind when hearing, “self-driving car” or “self-driving trucks”? Your thoughts may include: “What is the future of the self-driving truck?” or “Will this actually become a reality?” Technology and automation are coming with a wave of the future. Simple pleasures we take for granted through efficiency, in both our personal lives and business world, have been a main stay for over 40 years. These efficiencies are now coming to the forefront of the trucking industry which gives us all both positives and negatives to be considered.
On May 5th, 2015 the first self-driving truck hit the road in Nevada. The Freightliner looked like any other truck, but had technology features like lane control, ability to self shut down if conditions were not standard for the driver to control, and ability to scan up road for eminent objects. From a trucking company’s perspective, a major positive of this movement is that driver wages represent 60-75% of the cost of getting freight from across the country. Self-driving trucks could eliminate this cost or cut it down drastically. Another consideration is the time it takes to get the freight to a destination. Driverless trucks can drive 24 hours a day, where as a driver is restricted by the hours of service regulation allowing for only a maximum drive time of 11 hours. The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) performs and annual study regarding the top 3 problems facing trucking including hours of service, CSA, and the driver shortage. These issues could all be helped with the use of self-driving trucks.
While efficiency gains are almost too real to pass up, the technology will have tremendous adverse effects as well. More than 1.6 million Americans work as truck drivers, the most common job in 29 states. There are also big regulatory and infrastructure barriers that will take place. In Europe, they need to create on and off ramps where human drivers can drive the trucks to the highway for autopilot mode. Also, with the destruction of jobs, regulators will be slow to the use of this technology for the foreseeable future. Even Daimler, the maker of Mercedes Benz and Freightliner, thinks it is at least 10 years away.
Even though we all love to get the next greatest thing when it comes to technology, in business we truly need to weigh all the pros and cons. Remember when considering this “wave of the future”, that this potentially puts someone’s career in the balance. Also, as we have all seen with some of the other types of new technological or automotive advances, it takes a few rounds to work out the bugs.
|Kody Fitzjerrells joined Cottingham and Butler in 2013 and works as a Sales Executive in our Transportation Group. Kody enjoys spending his time reading, with family, and with his girlfriend Meredith.|