Over 3 million Americans work as truck drivers, 94% male, average age 49, average education high school or one year of college. Additionally, there are hundreds of communities and over 7 million workers who provide services to truck drivers, including working at truck stops, loading/unloading freight, and servicing the vehicles.
Self-driving truck technology is rapidly becoming sophisticated enough to replace these drivers. Morgan Stanley has projected that autonomous freight will save $168 billion per year. With this amount of money on the table, firms have a huge incentive to deploy autonomous trucks as soon as possible and displace the millions of Americans who drive trucks or support drivers for a living. Uber alone is going ahead with its plans to hire 2,000 employees into Uber Freight, Uber’s foray into building a national trucking network prime for automation.
As fewer truck drivers are on the road, fewer support workers will be needed, as well. Truck stops will close down as fewer drivers stop along their routes, replaced by self-driving trucks that never have to sleep. The autonomous truck firm Embark raised $70 million in September 2019 to build transit hubs: highway adjacent facilities where robot trucks load and unload cargo. And robot trucks will likely require service less frequently than those driven by human drivers, decreasing the need for work in that area.
The economy is not prepared to absorb the loss of so many jobs.
Some estimates have the mass production of these vehicles as occurring within the decade. This has potential for serious unrest if not handled properly. We need to implement a plan for how to handle this transition, and we have to do it soon.
Problems to be Solved
- checkOver 7 million Americans’ jobs, including 3.5 million driving jobs, are at risk as self-driving trucks become more viable.
- checkAlternative opportunities may not be feasible for a large number of truck drivers.
- Truck driving is the most common job in 29 states. As automation improves, millions of American workers’ livelihoods are at stake. We need to engineer a smooth transition for these millions of workers so that their contributions are recognized and that they benefit from some of the new efficiencies and cost-savings. Handled correctly, the automation of truck driving could be celebrated as a positive thing even by many of the workers involved.
- checkProtect Americans who work in the trucking industry
- checkEnable a smooth transition to autonomous vehicles
- checkPreserve order and distribute gains equitably
As President I will...
- Appoint a Trucking Czar to oversee the successful transitioning of truck drivers as self-driving trucks become more commonplace.
- Propose a tax on profits derived from self-driving trucks to provide severance packages for the drivers whose jobs are replaced. The estimated cost-savings and efficiency gains of automated freight are $168 billion per year which is enough to pay the truckers significant sums and still save tens of billions per year.