One of the trends that we have kept an eye on here at K-Way Express Inc. is how automation impacts the trucking industry. No matter if you are in charge of a trucking company or a logistics company, automation is coming to your industry, and it is coming fast. It is best to prepare for what that might look like.
Much of the focus on automation in the trucking industry has zeroed in on self-driving trucks. This is an important piece of the puzzle, but no one should let themselves be convinced that there aren’t other things to worry about. For example, labor automation is a big part of the situation right now, and it is likely to take on an increasingly important role in the industry as labor markets remain tight.
Labor automation is a process that has been happening across all industries for hundreds of years. Anything that can be done more efficiently by a machine instead of a human is likely to be switched over to that technology at some point in time. Just look at the example of telephone switchboard operators. This used to be a job performed by a human, but that has all switched over to technology now. There are literally no human switchboard operators anymore.
Truck drivers could soon face some displacement of their own as automation and technology continue to drive progress forward.
Automated Driving Trucks
Right now, it is estimated that there was a shortage of about 80,000 truck drivers in 2021. This resulted in shipping delays, errors, and lost productivity. It also puts additional strain on the drivers that are out there. This means that more and more trucking companies will keep an eye on the possibility of switching to driverless trucks in the future.
Driver assistance services in vehicles are already rising rapidly. It is estimated that the growth in this space is a little north of 11 percent annually. People are becoming more and more used to the idea of using technology to help keep themselves safe on the road. It is only a small leap from that idea to the concept of having a fully driverless vehicle delivering goods where they need to go.
The states seem to see where this trend is headed. A full 38 states and the District of Columbia already have passed legislation that regulates fully autonomous vehicles. They anticipate that these vehicles will become very commonplace in the near future. When that happens, it could cause a major disruption to the entire industry.
To be certain, the technology is not fully there just yet. There are plenty of companies that are testing these features, but it isn’t road ready quite yet. That said, no driver can sleep easy at night knowing that these technologies are not very far down the road.
Overall, the trucking industry and the people who drive that industry are likely to experience an increasing amount of change in the coming years. It seems everything that we know about trucking today is subject to change.