ATA: Self-Driving Trucks Are “Close To Inevitable”


The Wall Street Journal recently published an article titled “Daddy, What Was A Truck Driver?” In it they predict that the future of commercial trucking lies in self-driving trucks. All the non-drivers quoted in the article agree that it’s not a matter of if, but rather a matter when… including the director of engineering and safety policy for the ATA, Ted Scott, who said that ubiquitous, autonomous trucks are “close to inevitable.”

Perhaps it is not the prediction that is most unnerving, but rather the excitement with which the heads of major trucking companies look toward the driver-less future.

“Holy —,” exclaimed the safety director at a 300-truck firm. “If I didn’t have to deal with drivers, and I could just program a truck and send it?”

Proponents for driver-less trucks expect that in the near future, machines will be better at driving than humans. They point to the fact that an estimated 116,000 people are killed or injured in commercial vehicle crashes every year and that those deaths are overwhelmingly the cause of human error. Never mind the fact that they’re overwhelmingly the fault of the non-commercial vehicle.

For now the thought of self-driving commercial vehicles scares the general public enough to keep them off of public roads. But what about roads where there is no traffic? There are already automated vehicles working today around the world. In Australia for example there is a mine where Caterpillar uses 6 driverless 793f mining trucks to haul loads of rock and dirt up and down steep grade hills. They work 24 hours a day, only stopping for maintenance checks and to be refueled. There are no drivers, only technicians in a control room monitoring the trucks from miles away. They’re so successful that there will eventually be 45 trucks on site… enough to put 180 drivers out of work.

Everyone wearing a suit, sitting in the corporate headquarters looks at the numbers and thinks that automated commercial vehicles seem to be the wave of the future. Drivers on the other hand are less than sold on the idea. There is a general feeling amongst truck drivers – those who know the business best – that there are just too many things that drivers do other than holding a steering wheel that an automated truck would not be able to do.

“People come up with these grandiose ideas,” says Bob Esler, a commercial trucker for almost 50 years. “How are you going to get the truck into a dock or fuel it?”

And then there’s loading and unloading. Pre-trip inspections. Signing for drop-offs and pickups. Making sure cargo is properly secured. Making sure the cargo that’s being loaded actually gets loaded. The list just keeps going on and on.


Next Story: Amendment to Reverse HOS Bill On The Table

Source: wall street journal

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77 comments. Add a comment.

  1. James C says

    Sure, put Google self driving in a truck and send it down the road.

    Oh, it’d probably drive itself just fine – follow all the rules of the road, stay neatly all in between the lines, get to where it’s going just fine.

    But once it got there, then what?

    They have some guy come out to the truck and back it into a dock?

    What about fueling the truck?

    Truck stops aren’t a fuel depot in a controlled scenario like a mine.

    I am very much the layman here, but I think having these trucks would require a tremendous restructuring of infrastructure – a shift in infrastructure which would need to take place nationwide. Which would no doubt, require expenditures totally somewhere close to a trillion Dollars, because this shift would need to take place at several key levels. Basically, it would be like pulling up our entire interstate system and rebuilding it all new from the ground up.

    We can’t afford that right now. Period.

    Want to make the roads safer, and do it much more cheaply that replacing us BIG SCARY truck drivers? Take the control away from motorists.

    Yeah, automate cars.

    Oops, what?

    Yeah, legislatures, over 80% of the crashes between cars and trucks are caused by the cellphone-chewing, speeding and far-too-often devil-may-care, selfish and pushy motoring public!

    Besides that, you put truck drivers out of work, you’re going to have an unemployment crisis on your hands that will make America’s Great Depression look like a Wall Street blurp.

    Leave us alone, already? Please?

    We’re guys and gals just out here trying to do a job. And like it not, America needs us. Like, seriously, maybe try to figure out ways to support us, instead of trying to figure out new ways to regulate us, and now worse, trying to figure out ways to get rid of us.

    Address the real problems, and just please, leave us truckers alone.

      • Poli says

        C’mon guys even if they make it work, comes up some crazy guy with few thousand dollars buy one Russian 150 miles radius gps/comm jammer and you’l see how many deaths in one minute!!
        Did you believe on that? Kind’a scary don’t you think?

      • Joel Thompson says

        Scott, there is no such thing as a bad truck driver. In stead there are bad drivers, some of those bad drivers drive trucks. Focus on keeping bad drivers out of trucks is what they need to do!

    • hottrod says

      Are you kidding me? With all the glitches and failure of computers you would have more accidents than ever.

    • Stenar says

      There are already self-driving tractor trailers in testing. I saw it on a PBS show with Alan Alda as the host. The computer can back the truck into the dock, probably better than a human.

      At a gas station, in the future a robot arm would put the gas in the tank and the computer driving could communicate via Bluetooth or WiFi with the gas station to pay. But in the short term, a person at the gas station could come out and put gas in the truck. This will cost very little in the beginning, but when new gas stations are built, they’ll include these automated features.

      Also, Walmart is working on an electric tractor trailer, so, they won’t have to gas up, but depending on battery size, they may have to stop and charge up.

  2. Andrew says

    And in the beginning, the self piloted trucks will all slam into a low clearance bridge in Chicago because the programmers forgot to take into account truck routes in various cities.

    So what might happen instead, is they’ll automate the fun part of the highway haul between cities, then the automatic truck will park itself in a terminal drop yard outside the city where a local day driver will pick up the reins and shag it into the city.

    • Stephen Behel says

      I think that is the scenario. Even so that will still be a nightmare. You figure in all the multi stop loads with maybe as much as several hundred miles between stops. That is a logistical nightmare.

    • Stenar says

      Duh, the trucks will have sensors. They won’t have to have every bridge programmed in, they actually can sense whether a bridge is too low.

  3. Alchemist_NY says

    When trucks can drive themselves, what other jobs will be out there that haven’t also been automated? Who will have money to buy the products these automated trucks are hauling? I just got out of the much touted scientific field, what so many people call our “high tech hope for the future”, where the reality is that more and more jobs are replaced by automation or cheap overseas labor, to an industry that I had hoped would be immune to this practice. I had often heard it said that a guy in India can do anything remotely except unclog a toilet in Idaho or drive a truckload of clothes from New York to Virginia. Well, I stand corrected. After supposedly “American” corporations transfer all the jobs overseas to sweatshops industrial waste-dump countries or the cold, dead hands of a robot, I’d like to know how they expect to sell anything to the vast nation of jobless, impoverished obsolete humans? I guess they’ll pick up and move out to whatever third-world nation they can buy and leave the USA to become the new third world dump. They say we should get new skills? Well, I have a doctorate in chemistry, experience working in nanotechnology and biotech, and I couldn’t land a job that wasn’t a six-month dead end contract in two years. I have already got the skills every politician says we need, but every corporation says a Chinaman or robot can do cheaper. Someone has to address the Pink Elephant in the room; when there are no jobs for Americans, what do all the Americans do?

    • hottrod says

      That’s right – – and don’t forget, politicians do not have a concept of the real world. Things were at their best in the mid-sixties, when you could walk in virtually anywhere and get a job.

    • Mr Diesel says

      Simple explanation: Whatever yesterday was considered to be “conspiracy theories”, today has become a possibility and tomorrow a reality.
      What lies beneath all this stuff that’s going on at the global level these days, has been in the works and carefully planned by the elites around the world for a very long time. Perhaps well over a hundred years. Some tend to think that the idea has benn around for thousands of years, but never before in the human history has been a time when “the idea” was more possible to be implemented than at the present time. Today, the advancement in technology, makes just about any idea possible to be implemented and brought to fruition.
      The elites have an absolute disdain and hatred towards the multitude of the masses. For them, the masses represent an inconvenience that should be elliminated, thus a program for “population reduction” resonates favorable in the global elites circles. But how can something like “population reduction” be implemented without causing mass movements of resistance through the population?
      Simple: You need time, a well put together plan, flawless strategy and brutal enforcement tactics. Build and maintain a well structured hierarchy that keeps a tight control from the top down throgh multiple layes of society, artificially create scarcity for those at the botom – the masses, propagandize reasons to go to war, build and maintain a war machine and go to work “reducing the population”. That was most of the XX(20th) century. In 1989-’90 started a new era of the NWO implementation – “Globalism”. The intent is not to better the life of all people, but to bring down the standard of living in the advanced nation to those of the third nations, thus creating mass global scarcity and plunge the whole world of inferiour masses into a “controlled” mass desperation. All this it’s done carefully by brainwashing generations into believing that “the planet is dying” due to the uncontrolled growth of the human population.
      In the XXI(21st) cetury the environmentalist propaganda plays the center role. Indoctrinate the masses to believe that they are nothing more than an “infection” on the planet, and go to work implementing legislations and regulations in the name of “protecting” the enviroment which ceates scarcity that makes the Great Depression look like a walk in the park. Well, but this time around, do it at a global level! What follows? Famen, disease, pestelace, riots and anarchy, death, but under the watchful eyes of the well provided and protected elites.
      The elites of the UN has declared that the planet shouldn’t host more than two bilion people, and preferable under one billion.
      I wonder what are they planning for the rest of us, the five billion too many???

      Um? Any ideas?

      Oh, by the way, there’s no God, no morality, nothing! Just the brains of the, oh, so enlightened mighty elites!

      Today you’re desperatly looking for a job that offers you some luxury, tomorrow only for a piece of bred and place to hide! Oh, The Brave New World Of Human Utopia (misery)!

      • The247trucker says

        Roger that!
        2Th 3:10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”

          • Mr Diesel says

            What does “that” have to do with self driving trucks?

            Nothing and everithing!!!

            Nothing, if you think that you don’t need to work in order to earn a living. In this case I wish you good luck!

            Everything, if you understand that you’re being replaced by machines, thus you’re becoming a “parasite” which must be eliminated at some point.

            In any case, if you’re interested in what others think and still reading this, you’re bunched up with “the expendables”. You’re still “good” for the elites, as a brown nose, as long as you can dig your own hole deeper.

    • shrinkwrap says


      Of course with all of the automations in every biz going on plus the legal and illegal importation of workers combined with outsourcing to the lowest wage/ no regulation(s) countries the Corporates can find, who will be able to buy any of their products or services no matter how cheap they are?

      Best book I ever read on this subject was The End of Work by Jeremy Rifkin.

      Sadly everything he spoke of is happening……..

    • melissakay says

      Corporations want cheaper blue collar labor worldwide. If i’m not mistaken, american blue collar workers are some of the, if not the, highest payed blue collar workers worldwide. I suspect droves of cheaper blue collar workers coming into the US has in the last 15 years or so suppresed our wages and the corporations now have a vision of permenantly replacing the expensive american blue collar worker. I also suspect they are behind keeping our borders extremely easy to cross for cheap workers. Trucking corporations are no different. They envision more profit with automated trucks. Of course i can’t prove this, it’s one of my own answers to all that’s being allowed to happen in this once great sovereign(sp?) nation.

      • Mr Diesel says

        The largest segment of consumers world wide is still and will always be the masses of people which form the labor pool. Cheap labor translates in less demand for goods and services due to these becoming unaffordable. What happens when all goods and services and also the purchasing power of this goods and services is blocked in the hands of few elites around the world?
        There’s no limit to insanity!

    • Ian says

      10M truckers constitute a vast nation of jobless, impoverished obsolete humans? They will either retire or move into other jobs. Meanwhile, the other 300M+ people in the states will be able to buy cheaper goods shipped to them more safely, efficiently and cheaper than using current methods.

  4. Angelo D says

    This is a fantasy and nothing more until we arrive at the “George Jetson” generation. The infrastucture doesn’t exist as it took 200 years to build the existing model which is certainly not designed for it, nor can it be retrofitted for such an endeavour. In the early 90s, Mercedes had already developed a model that could link up with other units of it’s kind so that a train of many could be linked up to run down an interstate like the rail system. It never caught on as the efficient model already exists. Then comes logistics of getting the driverless truck to the farmers field, wide loads, logging, winter, etc.
    The business world behind the desk is what dreams up these panaceas in an act of futile brainstorming, It is niave to think that this ability by humans is just around the corner. I believe we would be lucky to see this in the next 100 years. Our pomposity since the invention of the modern computer is astounding that we would take the time to write about such nonsense or that platitudes that we have arrived and evolved to this stage.
    Humans will still be behind the keyboard that makes this happen. The recent spade of train disasters is proof of our flawed evolution of man and machine.
    This idea was dreamed of behind a desk , not behind the wheel, from those who are so far removed from the execution of 600 miles a day.
    This is what passes for news on a hot day in August.

    • Ian says

      It’s already happened… more than 300K miles driven by machines in regular traffic without a single incident of any kind.

      In Japan, there are already automated trucks running the roads.

      If you’re against it, at least have valid reasons other than, “It’s not possible”. Of course it’s possible and it’s already happening. A truck driver is essentially unskilled labour doing a job that can be done cheaper and better by a machine.

      • Angelo D says

        The projections for “AI”from the best in the science field have already stated that the first stage of “AI” isn’t projected until 2045. Without it, the limitations of this “Auto pilot” like technology cannot progress to anything further than simple road trains and/or in the vast emptiness of North America.
        Don’t forget the glitches of satellite & cellular communication by landscapes and cityscapes. The system must be infallible for the foreseeable future – not to mention, if its ever going to become ubiquitous, it may always be sharing the road with ignorant drivers who will be less forgiving of this new shared space.
        I haven’t even started to include its application to weather, wind, and it’s ability to read/feel this elements along with the surface of the roads condition.
        Maybe in a temperate climate, but it’s not that cut and dry – hence it behooves the promoters of such technologies to speak glowingly about the promise of a brave new world without giving out the more specifics.
        Anyone who drives a transport truck for 600 miles a day, knows full well how much every little detail matters in assessing risk.

      • Angelo D says

        Even the experts don’t project the infancy of Artificial Intelligence until 2045.
        There is a technological naivety that assumes we’ve arrived to a new plateau where anything is possible. It’s false to the tune of about 80 years. Even scientists are admitting now that they need to return to Einsteins original formulas because they travelled down an empty line of physics.
        Without infrastructure, networking, and above all, artificial intelligence, the reality of this technology will remain in limbo.
        You didn’t publish my last detailed post about “Autonomous Trucks,” and you likely won’t publish this one.
        There is always an “Upsell” about the future technologies. IMO to seed profits for all the insignificant technological advances before arriving at this panacea, but it all may be forlorn to return to the drawing board like modern physics.
        Until there is real “Artificial intelligence,” we got nothing to crow about.
        I’ve been building radio controlled toys, drones 20 years before they were called “Drones” – ask the military how many personnel are involved in the operations of 1 drone for 1 mission.
        As a trucker, I consider myself somewhat of a good bullsh_tter, but occasionally I joy listening to experts.

  5. Jon says

    Of course trucking companies are excited about this. So should everyone else. At first it will be a safety feature like auto-pilot. That stage will last several years(starting about 2018) then the driver will be taken out of the loop (by around 2022) as soon as they have fully autonomous trucks they will build them to be able to drop and hook themselves . Passenger cars will get the same treatment, just a little slower. Yes us truck drivers will be out of a career. Welcome to the world of technological advancement. It happens to all professions eventually. Get used to the idea.

  6. JB says

    And do people forget that we will have an economic crisis on our hands when 10 million drivers are out of a job and can’t find a job. Then what is going to be safe about it when a pimple faced teen hacks into one of these automated systems and has a day of using them like terroristic battering rams. It is perfectly understandable to expect companies to want to make more money but perhaps it would be cheaper in the long run to just invest in creating good drivers and supporting education of the rest of the motoring public. Working more proactively with law enforcement will solve a lot of problems also. We as humans are rapidly heading toward extinction because we already rely too heavily on technology. We need to be a little less concerned about the green and start to care about the hot red blood of every human being.

    • hottrod says

      We had a whole lot fewer problems with the old trucks with no computers and a whole lot less expense. I would not own or drive anything with an unreliable computer system of any kind in it. Tried it once, never again. Over-priced JUNK!

  7. Kay says

    I doubt it will happen in our lifetime. There are too many critical components to driving a truck on the road. Decisions have to be made by humans, not machines. If they can ever create a robot with a mind as complex and brilliant as humans and with the dexterity of arms and legs then they might be able to have automated-driving trucks. We aren’t there yet and we won’t be for another 30-50 years, IMO .

  8. Jon says

    Kay, that just shows you lack vision and imagination. It will be here in a decade. I assure you. The roads will be safer. The cost of the goods we buy will be lower do to less payroll costs. Law enforcement and EMS will be freed up to do other tasks. (This is once all road traffic is self-driving) drunk drivers will be off the road. Fueling? Self-driving trucks will go to full service truck stops. You’ll have some guy pumping gas making minimum wage. How’s that for a blast from the past?

    • JDG says

      On one hand, I agree that not having sleepy, distracted drivers on the road in ANY vehicle will be safer for all road users. But do you really think this is about passing savings on to a populace that has already become used to paying more for goods? Where would be the incentive for these companies to do such a thing? Out of the goodness of their warm, loving hearts? Either you also lack vision, or you are a paid brainwasher… GTFOuttahea!
      What happens when the turnover rate for minimum wage “truck fuelers” goes through the roof, and it becomes commonplace for employees of this discipline to simply walk off the job? Put salt and sugar in the tank? Oh, right, the automated arm fueler… Then you will have to pay a gaurd to keep people from messing with that as well. How does that free up police to do “other tasks”?? …And you’d better pay that guard well and arm them, because who in their right mind is going to risk their life to guard someone else’s stuff. Oh, right, just have cameras and some goober in a control room fire off automated rubber bullets… On and on and on and on….
      Someone else already said it, there is no end to the madness. Having worked for a large corporation for over a decade, I have seen first hand the level of greed at which these folks are playing, and left unchecked, it is unstoppable.
      Now, don’t get me wrong, driving long distances is/can be very boring. However, nothing takes that cake quite like driving a large truck in a dense urban environment. Backing into a dock is fun, but that is only 5-10 minutes of enjoyment versus 1+ hour traffic jams, rude city drivers, horrible construction detours, etc. etc.
      Oh, what about drunk drivers? They’ll be walking on the roads instead. Now what?

  9. Jon says

    Dexterity of arms and legs? What? The truck drives itself, you can even sit in the drivers seat while it does it.

  10. Kate L says

    Excellent, automated trucks to take away jobs and 3D printing machines to take away even more jobs. We can all sit around on our asses while the gov’t and big industry try to figure why no one has any money to buy anything. To quote Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park) “Everyone was so busy trying to figure out if they could, they never stop to wonder if they should”.

  11. Jon says

    It is a sticky wicket, no question. Where do your customers come from, if all jobs are eliminated. I don’t know the answer, but that is our future. You can’t just say….gee that sounds bad, therefore it won’t happen.

  12. Steve Bell says

    There will always be underpaid exploited drivers and ex drivers to back the trucks into and from dock to dock and load and unload for free and wait for free until the shippers and receivers are good and ready for them…

    And they will still have to check tires for free and fuel the truck for free and do the safety check for free ….Just like they do now!…As long as you are willing to work for free they will always use you…

    No machine that they have to buy and maintain can under price you when you are willing to work for free!..

    • MZukker says

      Very easily with the ability to monitor slight changes in traction in all 16 wheels simultaneously and make adjustments quicker than you could blink.

  13. Cynthia says

    I am so saddened by the continuing downward spiral in regards to driver treatment. The automated trucks of the future (and current) are just a continuation of that spiral. Big companies have for a long time now, stopped valuing their drivers thus necessitating the need to continuously be supplies with new blood when the old blood moves on. Unhappy drivers behind the wheel are unsafe drivers that is true but it doesn’t have to be this way. Companies can choose to treat us better. I’m fearful of the automation of our trucks and cars. I’m fearful as we give away all of our power to the computers.

  14. coffeeclue says

    The argument that technology takes away jobs is as old as the civilized world itself. Yet the world keeps expanding. I am a driver with my own company and I’ve had several drivers working for me. The idea that one driverless truck can do 3 times the work of a truck with a driver is extremely appealing to me. I’d simply go to dispatching instead of driving myself. Why can’t I dispatch now? The same way as drivers complain about companies, I complain about drivers. Drivers are basically a huge pain in the a$$ and getting rid of them will make the business a lot more efficient and less stressful.

  15. says

    I’d like to watch a 53 foot automated tractor-trailer do a city route in Manhattan. I’ll pay to see that. To make it fair, I’ll let the auto-truck have a lift-gate and pallet jack. LOL

  16. Angelo D says

    We still crawl like ants on the surface of the planet. We took nearly 5000 years to refine the wheel to this point. The next 10 years may see us lucky enough to come out of this economic funk at best. Until I see a projection or model on a drafting board with the quantum level of bugs ironed out, It,s a pipe dream with reams of complications and liabilities. The human being will always be the greatest technical marvel. Good luck with your remote control toys.

  17. Jon says

    Angelo, you make me think of a blacksmith sitting around in 1895 saying….”sure I’ve heard of this new thing called the automobile. But people will always need a good reliable horse. Therefore they will always need good horseshoes.” How many blacksmiths are around today?

  18. Jon says

    This is not about how truck drivers are treated, all of you who just want to complain

    This is about…
    If all vehicles are self driving, with a near perfect record, a huge tax on society will be lifted. Law enforcement costs, TA medical costs, much more efficient fuel use. Mobility for children and the elderly. Cheaper cost to deliver goods. This is a good thing. Yes you’ll need to find a new livelihood. Boo-hoo so will I.

    If you don’t believe this is possible do a search for googles self driving Prius

  19. Karen says

    You know what this article doesn’t show? The human factor. It says that 116,000 injuries exist. Doess it detail what happens when 10,000,000 drivers are out of work? Does article detail how much lost tax revenue is created when 10 million people are put out of work? Recently there was a newcast showing how hackers used a computer to throw a cargo ship of course. What would happen if a hacker threw an entire truck route off course? Could the trucks all drive to a bridge and drive off into the river? What about all the trucks take a plung into the potomic? What about new roads and bypasses that haven’t been updated into the GPS system? How much would it cost? I bet a lot less than 116,000 injuries they claim drivers suffer each year.

  20. Karen says

    I agree. We did have a lot fewer problems with trucks when they were not computerized. And it cost a whole lot less to repair, mechanics were important to the industry. Now it cost $4000 to $10,000 to get engine work done when before an inframe overhaul cost $900.00! Out of frame about $2,500 to replace all belts, lines, hoses, wiring, etc. But think about who the cost belong to? Its not the trucking company if lease drivers pay for it. Cost isn’t paid for by developers when they pass the buck to owners. Technology saves money but when it puts mechanics out of work and quadruples the cost to maintain the vehicle, it does nothing to protect employment or provide well being to a persons livlihhod.

  21. Madison says

    I don’t think we have anything to worry about. Until trains, plains and ships become automated we will have our jobs. Plus. I’m sure any self driving rig will still need an on board supervisor. It’s one thing to have a rock truck drive up and down a short road. It’s another for a hwy truck to be able to go anywhere. Regardless I’d be fine hanging out in a truck doing all the driving. 😉

    • Jethro says

      I just got my Cdl last year and already saw Google driverless cars in the city I used to live in. I welcome self-driving trucks with the provision that there must be an onboard attendant. I like listening to music but would not mind watching YouTube pretty much all Fay between fueling and loading/unloading.

  22. Ian says

    What happens when the 4 wheeler gets in front of a driverless truck gets hit and the trad ck does not even realize it has struck another vehicle? Self drive trucks work on private roads where there are not other drivers.
    Or welcome to Westworld where nothing can go wrong go wrong go wrong … …

  23. craig says

    They’ve been talking about this for twenty years, it’ll never happen…In the sixties and seventies they said in the year 2000 cars would fly..

  24. Bob says

    All this sounds great if they have Apple do the design and implimentation. If they leave if to the Bill Gates clowns, God Help Us. Well maybe then all of us 10 million could be retrained to write software patches for all the screw ups.
    I’m not at all concerned.

  25. wonderkins says

    If this ever happens, I’ll stop driving the freeways. I love computers, but I won’t trust one to drive a big rig, or any other vehicle.

    Will the trucks perform the pre-trips? What about when a sudden traffic jam comes up? Or a deer jumps out? What about driving in a blizzard in Montana? Do people really want an 80,000+ pound, unmanned truck barrelling through a white wall of nothingness? This job can’t be automated. Too many human skills are needed.

  26. Dave says

    The truck wouldn’t drive itself. Someone would be driving it in an office setting. Put a camera where the driver sits. However, the relay feed would need 100 percent uptime. Imagine, a deer runs out during a thunderstorm. On a lighter note, I saw a bear on I80 in Pennsylvania tonight. 22 years and a first for everything.

  27. chris says

    The safety director who was all too excited about the prospect of not having to deal with drivers does he not know he would no longer be needed?

  28. Angelo D says

    This is the pompous nature of the human race that a mere 200 years of technical achievements can immediately endow themselves , or the collective that believes that we have arrived at such a pinnacle that “Near perfect ” is attainable .
    If you haven’t noticed , the next great technological leap to such has somewhat stagnated as most world economies have proven.
    Evolution and world history dictates that there will always be long periods of stagnation.

  29. matt says

    I predicted this years ago. how it’s probably going to start off as. is a semi automated system. where the driver will only have to drive in the cities to the delivery and pick-up. once on the free ways. then the truck will be put into auto drive mode at a speed of 35 to 45 mph. and the human driver will only have to watch for low Bridges restricted routes and stopped traffic. when they say “near future” it’s more like 2040 to 2050 before fully robotic trucks hit the public streets. there is still alot of un developed technology needed before that happens.

    to give a good clear understanding. as in todays world. where trucking companies are closing down. in the future. there won’t be trucking companies. the automated and robotic truck will be owned by the manufacture. truck stops will be a thing of the past. safety and logging regulations will be a thing of the past. several government agencies will be closed also. weight stations will be a thing of the past. mass lay offs will be come more common. if you think unemployment is high now. it’s just a drop in the bucket on what lays in the future.

    • User says

      Weigh stations will never be illiminated. You think that just because the truck is automated that the shippers will suddenly stop trying to overload trucks? What about making sure the companies are doing proper maintenance! Weigh stations will never go away because trucks will always need to be regulated and enforced with or without a driver….although it would be nice for a change seeing as if there wasn’t a driver, the companies would be the ones receiving all tickets and fines!

  30. Roy says

    Seems more likely that Trucks will be equipped with electronics that act more like an airplanes auto pilot, but still require a pilot whose job becomes more like an electronic systems manager.

  31. dannythetrucker says

    people are assuming the truck could be programmed. But let’s say the truck is just driving down the interstate. There is a car coming down the on ramp and one about to pass the truck on the left as well. This happens many times a day to every truck on the road.

    How do you program the computer to respond ? Slow down and hope the vehicle coming down the ramp gets out in front of you ? change lanes and cut off the car about to pass you ? There are a lot of unknowns here, not easily reduced to programming.

  32. Chris says

    hahahahaha!! Unmanned trucks driving down these two lane, over-crowded, pot hole stricken roads with a bunch of 4 wheeler drivers with cell phones in their hands! Do it please that would be hilarious!

  33. good for nuthin" says

    I have always told my wife that we are the last of the breed. I have 17 years in and I figure by the time I can’t drive a truck anymore, the bottom will have fallen out( moneywise) and the only paid people will be local transporters. Sure they’ll have a minimum wage guy to take over if the computer in the truck goes wrong, but he’ll probably only be a glorified babysitter making minimum wage.

  34. rufus crank says

    worst thing about automated trucks is the threat of cyber espionage. shut down commercial vehicles by shutting down 1 server and our whole nation shuts down. only by having humans in the vehicles can we continue to see our nation operate freely without threat from foreign and domestic enemies.

  35. matt says

    I agree with good for nothin. that’s about what it will amount to. the driver will only get paid for the in city driving only. and will still be required to stay on the truck while in transit to the next city with out being paid for the travel time. which means the human driver will be forced into living so far below poverty that minimum wage will look like better more stable pay. wait a minute! that how it is now. drivers hourly wages are working out to be $5.62 an hour. that is way below poverty.

  36. JGL says

    Sorry gentlemen, let’s not get in denial here. This is happening and truck drivers will be unemployed within our lifetime. If it’s any consolation, you guys won’t be the only ones whose jobs will be automated. People will have to move on and switch professions. We’re gradually approaching the time when we’ll need to re-evaluate our current model of wealth distribution.

  37. AW says

    Drivers will then be technicians. And they will be paid even less, and still be responsible when windows freezes up and causes a 50 car pile up. Cute.

  38. Danny Wallace says

    I like the idea of the self driving truck, if it’s used like the auto pilot in the aviation industry. This means we are not eliminating the driver but giving him or her better tools to do the job safely. There has been many times I’ve wished after waiting half of my duty time for the loading process for a switch that would let me sit back and unwind as I monitored the truck moving down the road, staying in it’s lane, and at the safe speed for traffic. Just imagine drivers, this would relieve the stress that we are all faced with as we try to stay on schedule. Free to make a phone call for our next appointment, pick up or delivery. Checking ahead for traffic and road conditions related to weather or other hazards. This is what we should be pushing for, this is how the industry will reap immediate benefits from this upcoming technology. Don’t try to block it all together, help steer it in the right direction. We need this for our future, especially if it is employed in automobiles. We cannot sit back and let this leave us behind. Just think, some of the comments made above are in the right direct in part, like drivers as technicians, yes. Drivers will still be needed to maintain the flow of freight, fueling, signing bills ect, all of the mandatory administration tasks that we do today. But if we sit back and give up, we won’t have a chance to make this technology work in our favor.
    just my 2cents.

  39. anthony says

    Ha! This article is laughable, along with some of the comments below. Trucking companies are operating on razor-thin profit margins already, and driver wages comprise only a small fraction of the cost of doing business. The vast majority of a company’s expenses are for fuel, equipment purchases, maintenance, licensing, fuel taxes, etc., and NOT driver pay (Google “An Analysis of the Operational Costs of Trucking”, by Todd Trego.) Furthermore, this country is literally falling apart. Our governments (both at the federal and state level) are too broke or don’t have the capital anymore to get our infrastructure above even a pathetic D rating, and car manufacturers can’t even make seat belts without having a recall every time you turn around— And yet somehow, some way, we’re going to kick 10 million truck drivers to the curb and automate our entire trucking fleet?Even if these companies and our government HAD the capital to make this happen, I can only imagine what kind of nightmares would play out (as one earlier poster noted) when sensors start to go bad, or get covered up by snow or ice.

    This is just a bad idea, any way you look at it.

  40. says

    I have to laugh ….
    Comments are 2 years old drivers saying oh it will never happend….may 2015 freightliner inspiration happend …
    Driver less truck in Nevada. .we will so be out of jobs folks

  41. mike says

    We’ll 10 million drivers will be put out if work, then you have the ripple effects of that. You would need less cops, because when a computer is driving it will not speed and there will be less accidents. 10 million people unemployed means small businesses that they support like truckstop diners will go under. big business like Walmart won’t go under but will lose money and have job cuts. I’m with over 10-20 million people unemployed, plus the people under employed, or still unemployed from the 2008 collapse, will put us on track to being a third world hell hole. But hey it’ll open up the door for crime, and poverty. The unemployed truck drivers, small business owners, and people put out of work from the loss of spending power, will turn to drinking and drugs like many people do in tough economic times for a little release from financial stress and their shitty existence. When that happens people can take up jobs as drug dealers, since the trucks won’t be manned And are vulnerable to hacking you will have people who currently steal credit card info and people’s identities, hacking trucks computers and stealing the cargo to sell on the black market. It would also be easier to just run a truck off the road, take the cargo, and sell it. So if you take the 10 million jobs, without any idea how you will put those people to work in similar paying positions, it will take another 5 or 10 million jobs, which on top of the already frail economy, underemployment and unemployment problem, will drive up crime, and create a black market economy (not that it doesn’t exist now) to employ those people who have lost jobs and continue to lose jobs.

  42. Joe says

    If you believe the trucking industry will not change in the foreseeable future, you are living the life of an ostrich. How this change occurrs and it’s effects is truly up for a multitude of speculation. There will be good and there will be bad.

    To sum it up as best my brain is able:

    Isostacy along with “Let them eat cake”!

  43. Viktor says

    So, how exactly are the big trucking companies going to flush us all to the gutter?

    By owning a fleet of trucks, only in 20 years they’re specking cameras and processors instead of presumed fuel economy.

    It’s not that hard to understand the means to survive. Buy a truck, lease to a company if you don’t understand how to find your own work, and buy trucks. Anyone who wants out of this business already does the same thing. They build a fleet, they manage the fleet from home, and pay an accountant company to manage the details. Replicate the process enough times and you become the big scary truck company.

    When everything is somehow automated, the robots will need programmers, and maintenance technicians. When they make a robot mechanic or a robot infantryman just as versatile with a mop, a wrench, or a paint brush as they are with a rifle, then maybe we can worry.

    Or maybe you’ll see it coming decades ahead of time, and you’ll own a few robot mechanics and road repair crews yourself.

    You can panic or you can cash in on a trend.

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