Autonomous Trucks and Solving the Driver Shortage Issues

In 2014, driver turnover reached an annual rate of 103% and Lana Batts of Transport Capital Partners says we can expect turnover to reach 150% by the end of 2015.

Many companies have invested time and money to lure young drivers to their fleets but “truck driver” is not exa

ctly the most coveted career with long hours away from home and less than desirable pay. So, how do we reduce cost, increase efficiency, and maintain quality standards while more and more regulations are imposed? What if the answer is in driverless trucks? If that sounds too Disney “Future World”, you may be surprised.

Daimler made headlines last fall when it demonstrated its “Future Truck 2025” rig, showing a truck that automatically maintained its lane and distance from other vehicles, even changing lanes, without a hand on the wheel. This takes the concept of assistance systems like automatic braking and speed recognition to the next level. The benefits go well beyond just safety by also increasing fuel economy and a smoother traffic flow.

Another project, which Paccar is involved in, is working on “platooning,” where technology allows a group of trucks to follow each other much more closely than would be safe with strictly manual human controls, saving fuel for all the trucks in the platoon.

Imagine the benefits your fleet could reap if you could keep drivers home more often and increase their pay all thanks to efficiencies created by adding driverless trucks? Some believe such technology could help alleviate the driver shortage or at least reduce the strain on current long-haul needs. Critics argue that autonomous vehicles could be vulnerable to being hacked by terrorists, and that there are ethical issues to deal with, not to mention questions of liability.

Of course, this is some time off yet with all of the regulation hoops to navigate. At best, Mercedes says that bringing the concept to market is at least 10 years out. We can expect passenger vehicles to implement the autonomous features during that time and to pave the way for the new long-haul model.  

Submitted by Christina M. Seskey, Director, Business Development