By Nathan Forster, Head of Automotive and Transportation at T-Mobile for Business
The national truck driver shortage isn’t a new problem, but the shortfall is growing. In 2018, the American Trucking Association (ATA) reported a shortage of 60,800 drivers. That number has since increased to 80,000 and is now on track to reach 160,000 by 2030.
The overwhelming need for truck drivers has shunted conversations around automation stealing jobs and pushed more transportation and logistics (T&L) operators to test out, invest in, and deploy autonomous and semi-autonomous trucks. Capacity constraints, continued external disruptions, and an aging driver demographic have also contributed to this injection of automation into the supply chain.
“As we move increasingly toward a resource-constrained world, organizations are beginning to engage technology such as driverless trucks to move cargo more freely, cost-effectively, and sustainably,” IDC states in its new Market Perspective report, “When Will We Have Self-Driving Trucks, and What Will It Mean?”
Rising truck driver salaries and the overall labor shortage are also forcing T&L companies to rethink their traditional approaches. Although safety remains a key and valid concern from both a public sentiment and regulatory approval standpoint, autonomous trucking is coming into view. While that scenario is still likely a few years away, the related operations, technology, and safety credentials continue to evolve.