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Will Automated Trucks Replace People?

Will Automated Trucks Replace People?

April 14, 2022
A new study from the University of Michigan and Carnegie Mellon found that automation could eliminate a few hundred thousand jobs, as opposed to a million or more.

The shortage of truck drivers has risen to the level that on April 8, Walmart announced that truck drivers can earn as much as $110,000 in their first year. That compares to an average salary for a long-haul driver of $56,491, as reported on NBC News. 

The company is hoping the high salary will attract workers, given there is a shortage of 80,000 according to an analysis by the American Trucking Association.

Some reports are saying that the salary isn’t the only issue as the job is grueling, drivers don’t like being away from home and there is a lot of waiting on the job taking up valuable time.

Similar to automation increasing in warehouses to help solve the worker shortage,  trucking is also looking to automation.

Recent research, published in the journal Humanities and Social Sciences Communications on March 14, done by the University of Michigan and Carnegie Mellon University, looked at the human impact of autonomous trucks. 

They found that up to 94% of operator hours may be impacted if automated trucking technology improves to operate in all weather conditions across the continental United States, as reported in an article on the University of Michigan’s website.  The issue of weather and the reason that automated testing is now being held in the Sun Belt state is that the technology may not work well in rough weather.

“In terms of numbers, our analysis showed that automation could eliminate a few hundred thousand jobs (as opposed to a million or more), but there is plenty of evidence to suggest that for most people these are fleeting, poorly paid and unpleasant jobs,” said study co-author Parth Vaishnav, assistant professor of sustainable systems at the U-M School for Environment and Sustainability, in the article. “We think that it is possible that the number of operator hours lost at truck stops, because automated trucks will have no drivers who need to be served at truck stops, could be compensated by new employment opportunities at transfer hub ports.”

That reasoning is similar to that of those working in the warehouses being moved from jobs that are not only unpleasant but not as safe, into better jobs. 

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