Taking the United States, as an example, a full truckload being shipped from L.A. to New York costs about $4,500 currently; 75% of this cost goes to pay for man labor. Now, subtract man labor from that equation and put in driverless trucks. The cost of transporting a full truckload of cargo from L.A. to New York will now cost about $1,125. Economical, don’t you think?
It gets even better, with man out of the equation, so are other economic inconveniences such as State laws restricting human drivers not to drive for over 11 hours per day without taking a minimum of 8 hours break. With the driverless trucks, these machines can be on the road 24/7. That means, by using driverless trucks, the U.S. transportation business will double their output at just 25% of the initial cost when man was in the equation.
Now let’s get even more economical; how is the fuel efficiency of these autonomous trucks compared to when man sited behind the wheels?
As TechCrunch explains it; “And the savings become even more significant when you account for fuel efficiency gains. The optimal cruising speed from a fuel efficiency standpoint is around 45 miles per hour, whereas truckers who are paid by the mile drive much faster. Further fuel efficiencies will be had as the self-driving fleets adopt platooning technologies, like those from Peloton Technology, allowing trucks to draft behind one another in highway trains.”
As a consumer, trucking costs make up a considerable portion of the price of the products you buy at the store. If the trucking costs could be reduced by 75% as in the case of driverless trucks, you will end up spending less on the goods you buy. Thus, you get more disposable income and your living standard rises.
Additionally, driverless trucks technology once rolled out commercially should improve road safety standards. That is assuming the technology these trucks will be programmed on, will observe the traffic rules to the letter, unlike a human driver who is likely to break some few rules here and there.
Not forgetting that the trucking jobs is not something most young people want to do. Stats in the U.S. show that the average truck driver is about 55 years old, and projections are already indicating labor shortage in the coming years. This looming shortage creates an even greater incentive for the trucking business to adopt the autonomous trucks.
However, the flip side of driverless trucks means millions of jobs will be automated leading to millions of people losing jobs. In the U.S., it is said about 1.6 million people work as truck drivers, and it is actually the most common job across some 29 states.
Take away their jobs and give it to autonomous trucks, you will be effectively making about 1% of the U.S. workforce jobless. Things start getting even grimmer when you take into account all the highway diners, motels, rest stops and other businesses catering to the needs of truck drivers on their long highway drives.
Yes, driverless truck presents potential huge economic gains, but on the flip side, it also represents much job loss and businesses shut down. The debate as to whether or not to adopt autonomous trucks in the trucking businesses needs to be settled fast, as the commercial deployment of driverless trucks is a reality just around the corner.
You only need to take a look at the recent convoy of self-driving trucks that drove across Europe to the Port of Rotterdam as an affirmation.