Let’s Talk (Autonomous) Trucking


What’s happening with the trucking industry nowadays?

One answer: Not enough, at least where drivers are concerned.  

There have been a plethora of articles written about the current standing of truckers, transport safety rules, and even autonomous trucking.  Let’s take a look at what is happening, according to a few articles by the New York Times, an AP Exclusive, and CDL Career Now.

While our economy continues to grow and flourish, one area is not keeping up in order to meet demands: trucking.  According to the Times article, we are currently faced with a shortage of 50,000 truckers. What makes drivers turn away from the industry, some before they even enter it?  For one, the industry has a certain stereotype to it: older, white men dominate the driver pool. Age restrictions are yet another deterrence. As of now, individuals “under 21 [cannot] make interstate deliveries...federal regulations currently prohibit [this]”.  This becomes a problem because young people will not want to wait around to begin trucking; by 21 they will have already potentially settled into another trade career, or have graduated from college.  How do we combat this shortage of eligible truck drivers? We need to begin looking at those who would be deemed out-of-the-ordinary for truckers as the industry stands today, which includes targeting minorities and women.  There also needs to be more of a push to “[showcase] the younger truckers in the industry”. If the older white male stereotype can be broken, the shortage of drivers will begin to fall along with it.

According to the AP Exclusive on transport safety rules, there are a few requirements that should be in place but are not yet enacted under Trump.  One regulation that the article is all for is fitting trucks with speed-limiting software. With trucks traveling at speeds a bit more slow than they are used to going, there would be less deaths from crashes with the big rigs.  Another regulation that the write-up recommends is screening for sleep related disorders, such as sleep apnea. If truck drivers are not getting the required amount of restful sleep, they are much more likely to run into difficulty on the road.  Currently, life saving regulations are being eliminated, including advanced braking systems on trains carrying hazardous products. Although a monetary value is placed on the life of a person for economic analyses, we cannot continue down this path of removing crucial safety rules and regulations that, at the end of the day, save multitudes of lives.

To end on a much lighter note, let’s talk autonomous trucking.  CDL Career Now has an article about this topic on their website.  With a considerable shortage of truck drivers causing a stir in the shipping and transportation industry, it is no wonder that the concept of autonomous trucking is in the works to fill in the gaps.  Another reason self-driving trucks are being developed is to attempt to cut down on deaths related to trucking. While this sounds futuristic and too good to be true for some, the actuality of the situation is that we will not see totally self-driving trucks for a considerable amount of time.  As it stands currently, there still needs to be a driver on board in order to monitor the technology of the autonomous truck; truckers do not have to be concerned with losing their jobs to technology in the foreseeable future. The article concludes with a short list of pros and cons about this new, still developing technology.  

The truth about trucking is that there is both a lack of activity and new motion on the horizon.  While there is a current shortage of truckers, the falling numbers may begin to be bolstered by breaking the truck driver stereotype and introducing self-driving trucks to the roads.  Tension remains in the world of transportation safety, and we will most likely see more changes to the current regulations in place. Hopefully the higher-ups will put safety first...the truckers safety and the safety of all of us driving alongside them.

Want to do more reading about the status of trucking?  Check out the full articles: