How Automation Can Nudge the Employment Balance of the United States Teetering Truck Industry

A topic of constant debate is the social consequences of automation. Dating back to factory workers in the 1940’s who protested new technology to the modern day taxi drivers; the social impacts of automation can be seen in every industry.

Recently an academic paper by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University has been authored titled, the “Impact of automation on long haul trucking operator-hours in the United States”. The paper is based on statistics from a 2017 dataset made available by the US Census Bureau. In the paper they point out the potential impact that automated trucks will have“…up to 94% of operator hours for truck drivers…if the technology is deployed across the US in all conditions…”

The paper reasons that as a result there would be numerous job losses and a disturbed political climate. On one side, the promise of autonomous trucks have the potential to steal jobs from existing long haul truckers, many of which are men with only a high school education. But on the other hand, autonomous trucks have the potential to fill the void that exists due to the current labor shortage created by the pandemic. One proposed solution is the integration of a “transfer hub” in which human drivers would have a pass off point where the cargo would be switched over to an autonomous truck which would handle the highway driving.

Image Source: Impact of automation on long haul trucking operator-hours in the United States, Feb 2022.

An added benefit of the transfer hub model is the ability to tailor trucks for their driving conditions. Currently trucks are made up of two varieties, what is best for the city and what is best for the highway. Ignoring the benefits that would result from the use of autonomous trucks, there are still significant benefits to utilizing the transit hub model. With the implementation of the transfer hub model, you can design trucks that are optimal for their specific environment. With the flexibility created by the transfer hub, a truck that travels the sun-belt could be easily swapped out for a truck more tailored to drive through wet or snowy conditions.

If you wish to learn more, click the button below to visit the STAT Times article:

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