The Impact of Autonomous Technology on Trucking

The American Trucking industry is an iconic part of history, with images of truckers driving around the country in huge trailer trucks evoking such feelings. There are popular television shows on air that show these truckers in action. However, with the rapid development of technology and automation, there is a danger that technology might take over the trucking industry negatively impacting the drivers employed in the industry. As expected, many drivers are concerned about this – and their concern has been noticed by the senators in Congress.

Two senators in Congress, Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jack Reed (D-RI), in 2017, on April 26th, sent a communication to the accountability office in the United States Government giving it the directive to see into the effects that autonomous technology will have on the truck drivers and also on the communities that they serve. In addition to that question, the senators also want the government to detail the steps that are being taken in order to re-skill the truck drivers that will be displaced as a result, and also with regard to them getting non CDL Driver jobs.

As part of their study on the industry, the senators observed that around two million people work in the trucking industry – working with heavy trucks as well as with tractor trailers. They make an average salary of around forty thousand dollars a year, and these figures are corroborated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and most of these workers come from a rural background, wherein they have reduced chances of getting a proper job with good pay. Also, something to keep in mind would be the businesses that depend on the trucking system for their sustenance – like rest stops, motels, fuel stations, spares depots and so forth, which will be impacted as a result of autonomous technology taking over the entire system.

In their communication to the government, both the senators implore the government to look at three core issues that are associated with the move to autonomous technology for the trucking sector.

The first question being, what is the currently available information about the pace at which autonomous vehicular technology is being introduced by several businesses to substitute the existing trucks which are used to deliver goods? And how will the introduction of this technology directly affect the workers working currently in the industry?

The second issue is the information available about the technical background and skills that will be required by the people who need to support and maintain vehicles that are autonomous enabled as opposed to the people who are currently working with regular trucks using their driving licences?

The last issue is that of the preparedness of the governmental funded training programs which will be affected due to the introduction of such technology, as there will no longer be a need for training and developing professional drivers to get a commercial driving license and work in a CDL job.

In conclusion, the senators agree that this technology has huge potential, but will be beneficial for all only when all the stakeholders are satisfied with the proper implementation and running of these automated trucks whilst not disturbing the livelihood of thousands of drivers, namely trucking jobs.

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Learning essential driving skills – A curriculum

Truck drivers working jobs with conventional driving licenses need to master essential driving skills in order to be able to drive safe on the busy roads, as well as delivering their goods on time ensuring that the supply chain is not disrupted, and money is not being lost. For most truckers, they’ve come into the job as part of the succession line, just because their parents were truckers, and they’ve learnt their driving skills “on the job”, so to speak.

In addition, Truck Drivers may require Drug Testing in order to be hired.

Although their skills might be functional, it is quite far from being safe. Mastering the essential driving skills are a must if they are to keep their jobs in the future, and it is in this regard that the Ontario Trucking Association has launched a curriculum that aims to teach drivers these essential skills. They call this program, the “Essential Driving Skills – Tractor Trailer Driver Curriculum”. This program has been launched in anticipation of the government’s push towards a Mandatory Entry Level Training Regime that was to be put into effect on July 1st of 2017. This curriculum would help the truckers satisfy the requirements of this regime as well as to help fleets that were looking to upgrade their DCP (Driver Certification Programs) in this regard.

As most of the contracted drivers in the fleet do not have formal education, this curriculum is designed to help them grasp the essential driving concepts easily and to help the truckers get through their certifications with relative ease. This curriculum is otherwise known as “DCP in a box” signifying the extremely easy and portable nature of this curriculum. The “DCP in a box” has been approved for classroom use by the Ministry of Transportation over in Ontario and is approved for being used as an aid to help truck drivers get their Class A license easily. This training solution has already been offered to a number of third-party training and learning operators, who have already been running programs to help truckers get their certifications.

The Essential Driving Skills – Tractor Trailer Driver Curriculum consists of a single textbook comprising 406 page, along with a manual for the trainer which is 800 pages long, as well as a lesson plan spanning 36 course modules, a presentation with over 850 slides, an audio book with around 8 hours of on-demand content, a workshop to help the trainers get started and finally suggested times for yard and on road truck driving. With such a comprehensive curriculum on offer, there is little or no doubt that the truckers and the fleet operators will be able to meet the requirements of the Ministry of Transportation in Ontario with regards to essential driving skills of the truckers. In order to be able to gain the most from this training, truckers and fleet operators should be a part of the Ontario Trucking Association, but even so, this training is also open to non-members, who would need to send an email communication to the association to get more information.

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