Will emerging transportation technologies bring in new truck drivers or push them away?
That was the big question at a roundtable on “Emerging Technologies in the Trucking Industry” hosted by the U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee on Highways and Transit last month. Over the course of 90 minutes, industry leaders and lawmakers discussed the potential impact of automation and active safety devices.
“‘Automation can make the driving job better,’ said Greer Woodruff, senior vice president of safety, security, and driver personnel at J.B. Hunt Transport Services. ‘It can be a more fulfilling type of work.’
Woodruff added younger workers enjoy working with emerging technologies, which are making the job of driving more appealing.
Similarly, Susan Alt, senior vice president of public affairs for Volvo Group North America, told the subcommittee there is a shortage of truck drivers because it is a ‘tough job.’
‘We want newer, younger drivers,” Alt said. “Part of automation is just that—to lure more drivers in.’”
Not everyone present was convinced that technology alone can solve the ongoing driver shortage, however:
“Larry Willis, president of Transportation Trades Department, said the driver shortage was mainly due to wages and benefits not being high enough. He also expressed ‘serious concerns’ about the impact automation will have on employment within the truck and bus sector in the coming years.
Willis said the ‘economy is not prepared for the job dislocation and downward pressure on wages’ that will result. He called on lawmakers to react proactively to ensure the labor and safety policies keep pace with technology.”
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