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© Daimler AG
© Daimler AG

A journey of almost 200 km, a cargo of 50,000 beer cans – and no driver. With a spectacular test run the taxi provider Uber has led the way in the USA: the autonomous truck may not be that far from becoming a reality. In Europe too there have already been trucks which, although not entirely autonomous, have travelled in a networked convoy. They drive a fixed distance apart and if the front vehicle brakes all the others slow down as well. This increases safety on the roads and can reduce operating costs by up to 15 per cent, according to estimates by the management consultancy Strategy&.

© Daimler AG
© Daimler AG

The removal firm Schenker wants to try these convoys from 2018 and operate such networked trucks regularly on the motorway A9 between Munich and Nuremberg. But just when we can expect fully autonomous trucks on the roads is something no-one is prepared to say.  MAN CEO Joachim Drees talks about “dreams for the future,” and for Daimler-Trucks boss Martin Daum it is “very far in the future”. Because there is a social problem that has yet to be solved: what is to become of our truckers?

Over 4 million jobs at risk

© Daimler AG
© Daimler AG

According to estimates, automation could reduce the need for truck drivers in Europe and the USA by 50 to 70 per cent by 2030. Without automated trucks it is likely that 6.4 million truck drivers would be needed – 4.4 million of these jobs could be taken by autonomous vehicles. This is the result of a study conducted by the International Transport Forum (ITF), European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA), International Road Transport Union (IRU) and International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF).

In order to make this development more socially acceptable, the organisations are making four demands:

 

  • An interim council for road freight transport, whose members include worker representatives, should accompany the development.
  • A temporary licensing system should help to control the development and create funds for social hardship.
  • Road traffic regulations and standards harmonised across national borders should enable the advantages of driverless trucks to be used to the full.
  • The continuation of pilot projects with autonomous trucks should ensure the testing of various providers, technologies and standards.

 

“Preparing ourselves now for possible negative social consequences due to lost jobs will help reduce the risks in the case of a rapid introduction of driverless trucks, “explains José Viegas, General Secretary of the International Transport Forum (ITF).

 

https://www.itf-oecd.org/sites/default/files/docs/managing-transition-driverless-road-freight-transport.pdf