Few truck driving jobs to be lost through automation: study

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YPSILANTI TWP, Mich. – Few truck drivers will lose their jobs to automated vehicles as the technology begins to emerge, according to a report by the American Center for Mobility, led by Michigan State University and supported by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute.

The researchers concluded that car-based driving jobs – like taxi drivers – are more likely to be displaced when a significant number of autonomous vehicles are deployed in the latter half of the next decade.

But job are expected to evolve.

“Automated vehicle technology could incorrectly be viewed as a change that will eliminate driving jobs,” says research lead Shelia Cotton, a professor at Michigan State University. “The more nuanced assessment is that over the next decade the innovation will foster broader societal changes resulting in shifts in the workplace and workforce demands.”

“This level of advanced technology has the potential to lead to the creation of thousands of new jobs in the engineering, data analysis, cybersecurity and vehicle ‘monitoring’ areas. Based on data collected from industry experts during the study, there is already a significant demand in several of these areas,” she added.

“In the near-term there is great potential for these technologies to assist commercial drivers in safely operating trucks. Longer-term it will be important to define, develop, and deliver targeted training for the workforce,” said Christopher Poe, assistant director for connected and automated transportation strategy at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute.

Vehicle manufacturers themselves are expected to face some challenges of their own. Those working in this space or otherwise focusing on the technology used for automated vehicles are already having a hard time hiring enough workers with the required technology skillsets. “As automated vehicles begin to proliferate, maintenance and certain adjacent occupations will need to evolve and expand,” the authors note.

The study’s authors are also recommending more research into the related training that vehicle operators would want to pursue, identifying the skillsets that industries need to facilitate the creation and adoption of autonomous vehicles, and quantifying the financial impact of automated vehicle technology on the economy.

The research was funded by ACM, Waymo, AARP and the Toyota Research Institute.

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John G. Smith is the editorial director of Newcom Media's trucking and supply chain publications -- including Today's Trucking, trucknews.com, TruckTech, Transport Routier, and Road Today. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.

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