What happens when 1.8 million American truck drivers lose their jobs to robots?

Discussion in 'Business & Economics' started by Plazma Inferno!, Aug 4, 2016.

  1. Plazma Inferno! Ding Ding Ding Ding Administrator

    Freight trucks (semis, 18-wheelers, tractor trailers, what have you) are a big piece of the US economy. According to the American Trucking Association, these vehicles carry 67 percent of the freight that moves within the US — some 9.2 billion tons a year.
    There were, as of 2009, some 2.4 million class 8 trucks (semis) and 5.7 million commercial trailers registered in the US. Together they traveled 99.2 billion road miles in 2010.
    All that driving employs lots of people. In 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were about 1.8 million people driving heavy trucks. It is one of the last jobs available in the US that pays something close to middle-class wages — median annual pay of about $40,000 in 2015 — without requiring a college education.
    But what would happen if autonomous vehicles live up to their promise? They could have seismic effects on America’s economy and culture. Including long-haul trucking.
    The population of rural and small-town America already shrinks as young people leave to search out work in the cities (https://next.ft.com/content/e213f016-c9d7-11e2-af47-00144feab7de#axzz4GJ1kdwWa). Autonomous trucks could be the final nail in the coffin of many small towns.

    Last edited: Aug 4, 2016
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  3. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    I don't think these guys have grasped the nature of delivery via truck, in their predictions. It's not just the truck they have to automate - it's the docks, the cargo, the weather, the mechanical stuff, etc. The economics of having a self-driving truck on the highway carrying a driver for handling all the non-highway cruising stuff - which is the major skill set of the job - don't add up yet. They'll have autonomous cabs, helicopters, airplanes, bulldozers, trains, and cargo ships, before they have autonomous freight trucks. Prediction.

    More likely, long haul trucks themselves will go away. Goods will be manufactured in robot factories near their destination, from raw materials delivered by train, before they are delivered by robot trucks. Or autonomous zeppelins and drones - much easier to program than trucks, as airplanes are - will take over some stuff. Another prediction.

    But in the meantime, for twenty or thirty years after the first stage of automation life looks better rather than worse for drivers. A robot handling the crosscountry stretch, with drivers at each end meeting and handling the last few miles and all the hard stuff, will require pools of drivers as skilled and well paid as the current bunch - and they would get to sleep in their own beds at night.

    And the demand for support - mechanical, load and unload, roadside assistance, etc - would seemingly rise, not drop. Drivers are doing a lot of that now.
    Plazma Inferno! likes this.
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  5. Plazma Inferno! Ding Ding Ding Ding Administrator

    According to the data from the Census Bureau, truck driver is the most common job in most states. Driving a truck so far has been immune to two of the biggest trends affecting U.S. jobs: globalization and automation.
    Also, regional specialization has declined. So jobs that are needed everywhere — like truck drivers — have moved up the list of most-common jobs.
    The prominence of truck drivers is partly due to the way the government categorizes jobs. It lumps together all truck drivers and delivery people, creating a very large category.
    Source: The Most Common Job In Each State 1978-2014

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