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FMCSA chief Joshi: Drivers will take hit from automated trucks

Acting Administrator Meera Joshi sees ‘major shift’ in trucker workforce

Joshi said administration will prioritize effects of automation. (Photo: Steve Allen/FreightWaves and FMCSA)

How the move toward driverless trucks will affect the truck driver workforce is a challenge that must be addressed whether the timeline toward full automation ends up short or long, according to the nation’s top truck safety regulator.

“We can argue about scope and timeline, but what we can’t argue about is that this a reality: There will be a major shift in workforce,” said Meera Joshi, acting administrator at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), speaking Wednesday at the agency’s Analysis, Research and Technology Forum.

“If it’s your livelihood that seems like it’s being threatened, it is an immediate problem. If it is [a technology developer], it feels like things aren’t moving fast enough — the infrastructure’s not built and it seems further out. Nothing will happen overnight, but automated vehicles will certainly make inroads into the workforce.”

In January the U.S. Department of Transportation, at the request of Congress released a preliminary study assessing the affect automated driving technologies would have on the truck-driver workforce. The report found there is “vast uncertainty” about of how and when driving automation may be adopted in long-haul trucking and the associated effects on professional drivers.

But it also noted that in the long term, the adoption of Level 4 or 5 advanced driving systems “may supplant certain driving tasks and reduce the need for human drivers, leading to lower freight costs and productivity improvements, but also to periods of transitional unemployment for some affected workers.”

Joshi emphasized that it was priority of the Biden administration to “understand that there are extremely real and broad impacts to automation on people’s livelihoods,” she said.


“First and foremost, what are the opportunities, thinking about them now, for [a] shifting workforce, what are the training opportunities so that the next generation has the jobs that will be replaced by automation, and what are the additional jobs that can be created through automation that can [replace] the jobs that may not be available for drivers of tomorrow. It’s a commitment that you heard from the president and [Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg] and are hearing from me, to make sure we have our hands around how we can best prepare the workforce for this change, regardless of the timetable.”

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55 Comments

  1. Jajji chambers

    AN evolution that will surely give us hard time to survive than why we planing that? Already everywhere unemployment is on rise, struggling for daily needs to support our families, jobs, factories all are going overseas what we are here? To just watch how we automating cutting our own roots…any way let’s see

  2. David Martin

    Well since the world is evolving too where a person can’t work because all these innovation. Who gonna have the resources. To be able to purchase any of these goods. A person with no income can’t buy anything. But thanks to mankind with all these new toys. Only a few people will be able to get fed.

  3. carol willis

    Do you see these trucks tackle grapevine, or any other dangerous mountains. Much less who are you going to sue when there is no driver. because we all know it not the stupid 4 wheelers who cause any of the wrecks.

  4. Pink Trucker

    It amazes me that you actually believe with thousands of deliveries that trucks make 24/7 that you think computers will make you richer by running them only. There are many businesses that the docks are challenging and only can be done by a human as they can see how to advoid other obstacles backing in…Also, I like to know how the weather especially on the east coast will keep these trucks from being blown off freeways without HUMANS! After evaluating all of this…it looks like a castrophy! Those that want to take out the truckers are those who want to destroy humans livelyhood to benefit their selfish narative.

  5. Bennie Frazier

    The higher ups are constantly looking for ways to improve trucking, but never ask the trucker that’s out here in the field.No way this is going to fly,y’all call it the infrastructure,I call it pulling up to receiver and there’s no place to park,or cars in the parking lot where your supposed to dock.Let’s see how the automated driver handles that.

  6. FRANK ALTIERI

    Don’t worry. Will not take hold in our lifetimes because the infrastructure is not there to support driverless trucks. There are computers available to take off and land airliners, but pilots are still aboard. It would be much easier to use planes with no pilots because trucks have to share the road at a very close proximity to other drivers. There will always have to be human beings managing trucks one way or another.

    1. Rick James

      Just as the airforce had had pilotless planes for years, but realized the need for a human in the cockpit. As you said, trucks won’t go full auto anytime soob

  7. Anthony S. Comella

    Whether you’re a cashier, truck driver, welder, crane operator it seems like we live in a Nation where Corporate America, Big Tech, and Government all seem to be working hand in hand to crush the American Worker in the name of Progress, and Productivity. The worst load I pulled is when I had to go to a manufacturing plant a week before Thanksgiving and load up equipment by employees whose jobs in the name of Progress and Productivity were being eliminated and the plant being closed and those operations were going to Canada.
    Another Political Hack talking about retracing drivers for the jobs of tomorrow.

  8. Tom

    The trucking industry seems to always be getting screwed, I can’t visualize the thought of self driving trucks. I have seen plenty of changes in my 40 + years of driving, and it seems that they are not doing anything to help the driver’s at all.

    1. Jim Eck

      Once again, THE FREIGHT IS IN THE TRAILERS! We have had Autonomous trailers for a millennium now. They are called Piggyback and Containers. We will see Autonomous tractor, but they will be cost prohibitive for decades to come. Don’t worry drivers.

    2. TONYA SCHAFER

      I Agree Totally- “They” Who Have NEVER Driven a Semi Truck Are Making UNREALISTIC Measures – WHEN GOVERNMENT GETS INVOLVED IT ONLY GETS WORSE – LEAVE THE TRUCKING INDUSTRY ALONE & LIFT THESE MEASURES THAT ONLY CRIPPLE THE INDUSTRY-

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John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.