Could Technology Make Truck Drivers Obsolete?

Phil Cohen

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Caterpillar Inc. is currently testing driverless trucks in Australia. The self-driving trucks use guidance systems that are monitored by “technical specialists” from a control room that sits miles away. The self-directed trucks are smart enough to know whether to drive over or around an object in their path.

So, what does this mean for the roughly 5.7 million licensed professional truck drivers in America?

It’s likely that over the next two decades, machines will take over the job of driving . The director of engineering and safety policy for the American Trucking Association said that “autonomous trucks are close to inevitable.”

Owners of trucking companies appear favorable to the idea because it will save them a ton of cash in the long run – even if the costs of automating a truck were an additional $400,000. A full time truck driver with benefits costs trucking company owners anywhere from $65,000 to $100,000 per year. Companies would no longer be burdened with driver shortages, workers’ compensation, payroll taxes and covering health care benefits.

Closed-courses like the one in Australia serve as a starting point. The Caterpillar executive in charge of the automated truck program said that “eventually there will be 45 self-driving trucks on the site, eliminating most of the need for 180 driving jobs.” The few jobs that remain will pay more, but require more technical skills.

Sharing the road with driverless trucks is still a long process in the making. When driverless trucks appear on American roads, it’s likely they will have to run on different roads than regular vehicles or use embedded roadside beacons. Either way, the infrastructure to accommodate them will prove costly, which probably means truck drivers won’t have to worry for quite sometime.

Read the full Wall Street Journal article here

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Phil Cohen

Phil is the owner of PRN Funding and sister company Factor Finders. He has been an authority in the factoring industry for over 20 years, serving on the board of directors for several factoring associations.


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