Vast majority of truck-driving jobs are not under threat from automation

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I’m calling bullshit. The vast majority of a truck driver’s time is spent driving. The logs are currently automatically generated in many trucks, and the bill of lading work is being tackled by two startups that I know of - I’m positive there are many more. Vehicle inspections, securing cargo, inspecting loads - all that work can be done by a much smaller workforce. Even the in-transit non-driving work could be concentrated at weigh-points where a small team of former drivers services all the driverless trucks passing through.


I had been thinking that it might be a situation where there was still a “driver” on any automated trips, there to handle anything the automated system couldn’t, up to taking over driving if necessary.

The key advantage (in my mind) to automating a long haul truck is the “driver” would no longer need to be hopped up to the gills to make the run in time.


Not under immediate threat, true. But it’ll be a gradual process over 15-20 years, and short-haul and long-haul driving jobs are going to be gone one way or another once issues like the “snow problem” are sorted out. The capitalist impulse to reduce human labour costs is a strong impetus, and there are many companies working to make it happen.

Like non-commerical drivers over that period, they’ll have less and less to do in terms of driving as automation features are slowly and subtly phased in. Just about all the non-driving tasks listed will either be automated (e.g. maintaining logs, navigating) or done at the depots and garages by a much smaller on-site staff (e.g. inspections, safety checks). For short-haul you’ll also see a lot more robot vehicles and drones.

Right before the end the humans will be in the cab as essentially rent-a-cops, and guard labour will officially replace truck driving as the most common job for any American with a high school diploma or less. If a UBI isn’t in place at that point this country is in for a rough time.


This is my thought as well, mostly. I can imagine long haul scenarios where there are multiple trucks with just one driver. With the ability to have that one driver take over driving the lead truck and the rest follow. A sort of virtual train.

I think it’s much much MUCH longer out than we’re thinking before there are trucks driving completely unsupervised along the roads.

This could reduce the number of drivers or it could increase the amount of cargo being moved. Either way, it’ll be more cargo per driver, but not some complete elimination.

*Drivers taking over from a stopped scenario, not some immediate change of control. To lead a convoy through some condition that the automation cannot determine on it’s own. Like right after an accident when some complex detour is required. Normal operation on the road will be automated, stopping to change control. Not the ridiculous “beep, TAKE OVER NOW, at 60 MPH”. :slight_smile:


I’m guessing that a lot of trucks will just wait on the shoulder until it is safe to proceed. Once the tech is good enough, loosing an occasional cargo because it goes bad on the side of the road will probably be cheaper than paying to send someone along with the trucks all the time.

Heck, after a certain point, trucks may not even have a human interface or passenger compartment at all. Switches are surprisingly expensive, after all…

(And yes, the “solution” of expecting a human to take the wheel at 60MPH is ridiculous and is a horrible notion. It’s probably OK for the car to give the human that option if there is time, but if the car can’t pull over and stop itself if the human doesn’t grab the wheel, that is a lousy design. If the vehicle expects the driver to grab the wheel to correct it’s mistake, it’s a lousy design. We shouldn’t allow either design on the roads.)


The scenario that’s most plausible is that there is a set of trunk highways (such as the Interstates) that have intensive infrastructure for automated trucks. The automated truck will park in a staging area (the manual ones already often do, because of the fact that tandems are usually infeasible on the surface streets) to be joined by a human driver for the ‘last mile.’

That will eliminate probably 75% of the long-hauler’s hours. Moreover, the short-hauler may run on a slave-labor business model like Uber.

In any case, that’s the right starting point for the economic analysis - it doesn’t presume an immediate advance to technology capable of navigating a semi through city streets, but only in a controlled environment - possibly even a dedicated lane.

Paradoxically, it’s also a model that starts looking like container freight aboard a railroad, without the efficiency that comes of running steel wheels on steel rails. But whatever.


I think the entire “Robots will take your jerbs!” hysteria started out as the usual advertorial FakeNews from the Employment Services Industry and it has reached the “Y2K Bug” level of UrbanMyth overload.

Well, for what it’s worth, the Y2K BUg could have been very, very bad. Typically, the people who belittle the disaster that didn’t happen discount the efforts of a lot of very smart people working very hard to forestall it.


I think part of the argument here is that many “truck drivers” essentially aren’t, because of how job classification systems work. They’re doing jobs where most of their time doesn’t involve driving a truck.

The problem with this argument is, in part, as you say - certain jobs will need to be done by somebody, but it can be done by a smaller pool of workers who aren’t drivers. The other is something that we saw in the last recession - certain workers had bits of their jobs automated, but the jobs still went away, entirely. Either because the remaining bits of the job just got dumped on the remaining workers (i.e. their job descriptions expanded to take on new, extra work at no extra pay) or because the remaining bits of work could be automated by some other process(es).

So I wonder how much they’re underestimating job loss, assuming that if some part can’t be automated, the whole thing won’t be. That may be true in some cases, though - if a delivery driver’s main job involved removing the load at the drop-off point, and that part of the job can’t be automated (or done by someone else), then that job could be safe as a whole, even if the “driver” is essentially a passenger for the driving bit. (On the other hand, the “driver” could end up getting less pay for the new version of their job, too, given its reduced workload…)


That started with the Luddites. Who were entirely correct. Automation destroyed their - and a lot of other - jobs during the industrial revolution, and the new jobs that were created to replace theirs were of much lower pay (and required moving across the country, as the jobs relocated). It created massive problems of broken families, urban poverty of a sort that hadn’t been seen before, crime, pollution, etc. People point to the eventual state of English industry and jobs to suggest that the impact was all good, but that took generations - and the introduction of massive government programs for education and social safety nets (not to mention a captive market in the form of India, which saw its industries destroyed by British occupation).

The Y2K Bug was an incredibly real, incredibly dangerous threat whose consequences were only avoided by a fucking massive undertaking across the globe, with former programmers coming out of retirement to add to the workforce required to prevent disaster.

So if your point was that this is a very real, potentially disastrous issue that should be taken seriously and requires much work to avoid society-damaging consequences, then you made a great argument. But, oddly, that doesn’t seem to be your point…


But you mean that trucking companies aren’t going to pay trucker wages to someone to ride along in a sleeper cab for 20 hours in order to do 20 minutes worth of inspection and paperwork?

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Thing about the Y2k bug is that while it was a real problem, and potentially very serious. We were already well aware of said problem, and been doing all that hard work for years by the time that the media took notice, the mass panics took hold, the conspiracy theories started propagating, and the cults and militia groups started to use it to recruit. So its both an example of the way this sort of miscalculation in essential systems creates massive risk, and the cooperative undertaking needed to prevent that. And an example of unwarranted scare mongering and public crazies. By New Years Eve 1999 there was very little reason for people to be hunkered in bunkers waiting for planes to fall out of the sky, and there was no reason for the media to be SHOCKED and relieved that not much had happened.

Oh an probably also a good example of profiteering off bullshit. I remember crap like y2k ready golf clubs.


In recent years I’ve seen frequent references to Y2K as if it were a fantasy created by the media, that there was never anything to worry about, that there was no problem. (Because - obviously - nothing did happen!) Any time anyone brings up a potentially serious issue, we get someone responding that we don’t need to worry about it, we don’t need to think about it, because, “Hey, remember Y2K!?” In fact, that seems to be just about the only time anyone ever refers to the Y2K issue these days.


This is especially true if their labor does become mainly about loading, unloading,and guarding. For example, if they don’t need a CDL, then the hiring pool is way bigger and employers can pay less

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