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Panel: No Robot Trucks, But Automation Key to Driver Shortage

With tens of thousands of empty truck driver seats in North America – and growing –  the industry needs to focus on recruiting a younger pool of workers to fill those vacancies by emphasizing advancements in technology and automation.

“But we frankly do not see robot trucks driving goods across the country anytime soon,” noted Bill Sullivan, executive vice president of advocacy at the American Trucking Associations, who was one of the panelists during a recent Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE) summit. “As we talk about the more important today technologies building towards an automated truck or automated car, those technologies are being adapted into incremental benefits to safety and what we consider to be driver-assist technologies,” Sullivan explained. “We like how this can bring in younger drivers.”

As Fleet Owner reports:

Panelist Danielle Burr, head of federal affairs at Uber, said although full automation isn’t necessarily feasible for first- and last-mile deliveries, it could help bridge some of the gaps between drivers and their companies.

“Some of the lifestyle choices that we’ve heard from some of our drivers are challenging – to be on the road maybe 200 nights a year away from home,” she said. “Autonomy perhaps allows them to take that less than desirable component for some off the table.”

As Sullivan pointed out, even though we’re all focused on this “robot truck” driving down the road, different levels of automation have already played a major role in truck safety efforts. All technology advancements in the commercial vehicle space will continue to be adopted as long as there is a cost-benefit ratio, he added.

“Safety is a good business for us based on drivers, lawsuits, insurance and all those other things,” Sullivan stressed. “S, we see a much faster adoption in commercial fleets than we think is going to happen with say my family buying [an autonomous] Volvo and turning the buzzer off when we get tired of changing lanes every time.”

Full story here.

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