Report: Governments Must Help Manage Transition to Driverless Trucks

In a recent report, the International Transport Forum and other groups offer governments worldwide recommendations for addressing problems that will likely arise as a result of more and more driverless trucks on the road.

The global trucking industry could be facing a shortage of nearly 1 million drivers by 2030. But that’s without driverless trucks, which would more than fill that workforce gap and are already operating in states like Nevada. In fact, they’re becoming increasingly more common all over the world because they save money, reduce emissions, and ensure safer roads.

But they will have a huge impact on truck driver jobs, and that’s why governments need to manage the transition to driverless trucks. That’s according to a recent report, “Managing the Transition to Driverless Road Freight Transport” [PDF], published by the International Transport Forum (ITF), the International Road Transport Unions, the International Transport Workers’ Federation, and the European Automobile Manufacturers Association.

“The adoption of driverless trucks is likely to reduce demand for drivers at a faster rate than a supply shortage would emerge,” according to the report’s executive summary. “Of the 6.4 million driver jobs in 2030, between 3.4 and 4.4 million would become redundant if driverless trucks are deployed quickly.”

To stay ahead of the curve with regard to looming layoffs, ITF invited the other groups to collaborate on coming up with recommendations that they could then extend to governments on the best ways to handle the inevitable transition to driverless trucks.

“We came to believe that automation of heavy trucks was no longer a question of ‘if’ it will happen, but rather of ‘when’ and ‘how,’” said Jose Viegas, secretary-general of ITF. “Dialogue across stakeholders of diverging interests must preferably be launched at a time when tensions are moderate, so that rational analysis is possible in a nonconfrontational environment. Indeed, this is what happened, and consensual conclusions and recommendations could be reached without great difficulty.”

The groups came up with four main recommendations for governments considering transitioning to driverless trucks:

  • Establish a transition advisory board to advise on labor issues.
  • Consider a temporary permit system to manage the speed of adoption.
  • Set international standards, road rules, and vehicle regulations for self-driving trucks.
  • Continue pilot projects with driverless trucks to test vehicles, network technology, and communications protocols.

“The motto of the International Transport Forum is ‘Global Dialogue for Better Transport,’ and we believe this project is a prime example of that way of acting,” said Viegas. “We believe this report shows the scale of the social problem associated with the introduction of driverless trucks and, by the analysis it provides and with the legitimacy of its participants, it shows a path to address it in a balanced way that would allow governments to peacefully manage this difficult transition.”



Emily Bratcher

By Emily Bratcher

Emily Bratcher is a Contributing Editor for Associations Now. MORE

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