At one time being a trucker was considered a noble profession. Before there was AAA to come help you with a flat or breakdown, truckers were the first point of contact for stranded motorist.
Trucking companies took pride in their fleets and their drivers appearance. Being a truck driver was a well paying middle class job with benefits. Seems far fetched? Watch Wheels of Progress., a short documentary of truck drivers in the 1950’s.
There are many reasons that trucking isn’t the profession of yesteryear. Some point too deregulation in the 1980’s as the beginning of the end. Today, all we hear about is driver shortages, bad pay, and a growing number of drivers who dislike their career.
While we can debate the causes, no one debates that for many drivers, their jobs are low paying, stressful and exhausting.
If working conditions and low pay weren’t bad enough, truck drivers are now under assault by Artificial Intelligence.
Or are they?
There are hundreds of articles and message boards floating on the World Wide Web about self driving vehicles taking over trucking industry. If you believe all the reports, AI technology is going to solve the supply chain issues as well as the driver shortages . According to some, driving truck as we know it today will disappear.
But what if the opposite is true? What if AI Technology is already begun to lift the status of the truck driver and will continue for the foreseeable future.
Artificial Intelligence is defined as: Intelligence demonstrated by machines, as opposed to the natural intelligence displayed by animals including humans.
AI is not relegated to self driving cars, autonomous trucking, or robotics. AI systems are used by economists for forecasting as well as industries like health care during the pandemic. And as you already know, it is a favorite for sales and marketing.
Today, you receive emails, texts and phone calls from computing powers that know more about you, then you do. Machine learning goes way beyond demographics. Every time I receive an email today, I wonder if I will be replying to a human or a machine. We have come so far with automation, you may even question whether maybe I am Artificially Intelligent? My colleagues assure me that I am not.
In many major cities you see the testing of autonomous vehicles roaming our streets. These new technologies some fear will eliminate the need for the truck driver. But AI and big data may not be as bad as you think for truck drivers.
You don’t have to be from MIT to know that the real reason we have a truck driving shortage: Young people think being a truck driver sucks. Even a well crafted social media campaign or a TiK Tok video can’t make a trucking career appealing to GEN Z.
But with one decision, Walmart may have revitalized an entire industry and made driving truck attractive. With the announcement that Walmart is increasing pay for long haul drivers to over $100,000 per year or more (double the industry average), the entire sector is taking notice. Rising tides lift all boats. Was this decision and the amount of the increase done by human intelligence or artificial intelligence? You would like to think this is a human decision, because it makes sense, but my guess is this was done with both AI algorithms and human choice.
This determination by Walmart to raise salaries will have real financial consequences for all drivers. Financially it is a huge win for Truckers but even more importantly, it may improve an entire industries self esteem.
Better pay translates into increased self worth. A truck driver with a higher self worth will provide better customer service as well as improved safety. This of course is my opinion. But I am sure once the metrics have been run and the computers systems updated, AI technology will come to the same conclusion.
Again, as far as I know, I am not artificially intelligent, however my business models suggest that the self driving truck will not make the human truck driver obsolete. As long as in the future we are still in the real-world, I believe shippers will probably use a combination of automated and manual drivers. Not to mention, you will still need staff to manage these vehicles as well as Road Side Tractor Trailer Repair services in case your truck breaks down in the middle of the road. In addition, you may also need to contact a car accident attorney in the event of a collision or some form of unforeseen accident.
Profits, safety, policymakers and science will determine how quickly the adaption of the self driving truck takes place. If a self driving truck can pick up and deliver freight quicker, cheaper and decrease accidents, adaption will happen quickly.
My guess is that there will always be a need for the truck driver. In the future those who get behind a the wheel of a big rig will have our greatest respect.
Today, truck drivers who can work a manual 18-speed transmission are becoming rare. These drivers are often paid more and are looked up to by other drivers. Now a days many who drive a semi-truck can only do so with the help of an automatic transmission. In the future, perhaps, the truck driver who actually knows how to maneuver a big rig without the help of automation will be considered the top in their field.
In conclusion, at this point we should not fear artificial intelligence in the trucking industry. The profession of driving truck is looking up and it’s about time.
Of course, since I am human, I could be totally wrong.