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Technology will not slow down


A new year and a clean slate. Many of us view Jan. 1 as the opportunity for a fresh start when it rolls around each year. It is the time of year that we re-affirm our personal goals and aspirations or perhaps make radical changes to take our lives in a completely different direction.

Sometimes our lives are subject to radical change not of our own choosing and the greatest challenge we face is in our ability to adapt to those changes.

This is a place where many professional drivers find themselves as we move into 2015. The signs of radical change are all around us.

Many of us are in the twilight of our careers and we have an expectation of some reward waiting at the end of the road after many years of commitment and hard work. After all, isn’t that part of the deal?

The decades of loyal service should allow us to reap some sort of personal reward for ourselves and our immediate family – especially if we have played by the rules for all those years. But the rules are changing because the world is changing. Putting your career on cruise control and enjoying the ride to the finish is an enticing thought, but the winds of change are not likely to allow us to do that. So I thought I would share some of those radical issues I feel we are facing as regular working stiffs in the trucking industry.

Technology has been driving change in our industry and there is no doubt in my mind that it will continue to do so.

Some of the most telling indicators of change come from trucking industry groups that guide carriers in their decision making.

Thomas Frey, a futurist and director of the Da Vinci Institute, was one of the guest speakers at the Ontario Trucking Association’s (OTA) annual general meeting in November. Frey spoke of the digital layer of infrastructure we are creating over the physical world, how 3D digital printing may impact what we will – or will not – be shipping in the future, and how autonomous cars, trucks, and drones will be safer, reduce the need for drivers, result in lower fuel bills, lower accident rates, and reduce insurance costs.

So if you are a regular working stiff like me, what do you read into that? They are certainly issues that have the potential to hit drivers where it hurts but they are concepts that can be difficult to get your head around. It is hard to believe they will come to pass. I’m sure that our forefathers had similar feelings about Henry Ford’s production line and how it would impact their everyday lives. We’re in the very early days of the “Internet of things.” The potential changes that 3D printing and autonomous vehicles will bring to a commercial driver’s daily life – as well as to our society as a whole – may be just as staggering as the production line. Probably more so. There are also many global issues that will directly affect our driving jobs.

The push towards reducing our dependence on fossil fuels will continue. Energy self-sufficiency through adopting solar, wind, and geothermal technologies is a growing trend.

The majority of people now live in cities and the trend towards denser housing and more mass transit is building.

People are driving less. The attitude of the millennial generation towards car culture is very different than the generation’s that came before them. An electric commuter vehicle in every driveway? Maybe.

So what does all that mean to an economy such as Canada’s, that for the past several decades has been built on resource extraction? Supply and demand would dictate that less demand for oil means a drop in pricing, which on the surface is a good thing. But extracting oil from Alberta’s oil sands is dependent on the price per barrel of oil staying above a certain threshold in order to be profitable. This could have deep repercussions for our economy and consequently for working stiffs like you and I.

What is most interesting about the potential of these unknowns is that we tend to discuss them in terms of certainty, as if we know what the outcome will be. Let’s remember that the Internet wasn’t designed for social media – it was adopted by it. Now billions of people benefit from it. The next big idea may not be what we expect.

The next 10-15 years may see our whole world turned inside out as we adopt and adapt to new ways of living and interacting with one another. Of course this is all conjecture and things may play out in a very different way than how I have presented them.

Socrates is quoted as saying that, “True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing.”

Perhaps the best New Year’s resolution we can all make this year is to simply keep an open mind.

***

Al Goodhall has been a professional long-haul driver since 1998. He shares his experiences via his ‘Over the Road’ blog at http://truckingacrosscanada.blogspot.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at @Al_Goodhall.


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