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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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  1. cjcjdavis

    You can automation trucks all the want.
    . That truck will never be’ able to tackle all the problem driver have on the road.They better come with some automatic dolly legs
    and that truck better be’ able to call dispatch when business is closed.That better be’ able to do a good per TripAdvisor. That truck better to be’ able to figure our where it needs to be’ when the location the vender is wrong address after it arrive. I been driver for 38yrs 3.5 million safety Milse no accident.i pray iam retired when they Mess this up like every thing else they touch. Good Luck with all this automation.Nothings like a human. from CDavis

  2. Jonathan perez

    I honestly do not believe that we should go with fully automated trucks. with the star system coming into play where a global internet infrastructure will be available I believe that we can set up offices what we call terminal monitor computer systems that allows us to control the truck remotely on a shift bassist allowing the driver to be in the state of New York by example, driving a truck from Georgia to California from an office located in New York automation should only be taken over when inclement weather disconnects the driver from the truck puting it in to a safe mode.. I believe that a more adaptive approach without losing human intervention can be established allowing a CDL driver to be qualified to still operate the vehicle remotely I have a very heavy IT background and I’ve moved into the field of trucking and believe that I may be able to put together report to prove my theory of keeping the human involved in the transportation process

  3. Robert

    Driverless trucks are a bad idea. It will put millions out of work. Some might not know anything other than driving a truck.

    The other thing is the technology is not good enough right now. It can’t see through a mist of rain, snow, ice, fog.

    How will this technology be able to deal with this. What about high winds. What about a technology malfunction. If it fails, lots of people are in danger. It’s bad enough having humans making poor decisions but a systems failure and no backup is a bad idea.

  4. Ryan Brandenburg

    The effects of putting career drivers out of work will affect the youth of tomorrow. For some, this is all we know and take pride in it.

  5. Justin Atkinson

    Minimize big companies from receiving to many automated trucks, and do away with eld, because if you allow automated 80,000 pound trucks in our nation, then you care nothing for the people in America

  6. Ahmed Gaas

    Driverless trucking coming huh? Let’s see who’s more safe and efficient! Self driving or flip floper? Huh! 😂😂🤣🤣

  7. Ahmed Gaas

    Driverless trucking coming huh? Let’s see who’s more safe abs efficient! Self driving or flip floper? Huh! 😂😂🤣🤣

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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.