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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. Lee

    Or what if the DoT / FMCSA just didn’t allow automated trucks and then we wouldn’t have to be dealing with this and the future issues that it may cause like unemployment, wrecks from a hacker over riding the system etc. and also we wouldn’t have to have all of these over paid government workers sitting around on a committee that then ends up creating another committee to see what the implications of it will be. We could save a ton of money and red tape to just flat out ban the whole thing before it even happens or gets started. But I guess the government workers wouldn’t have a job then if we didn’t have committees creating more committees

  2. Richard Frymyer

    Automous trucking is a joke,
    Will never happen,should it happen just remember the first family in a car it kills ,it was not a truck driver but a jerk behind a desk pushing a pencil an buttons, and still the media will cover it up an say it was a truck driver not a robot, Facts,,

  3. Brian

    Half the time a dispatcher can’t get you to the right location. GPS systems need a more reliable way of pinpointing destination. Don’t know how many times ” you have arrived” is said with nothing there. Our roads are not even close to having attonomis truck, ever changing road work, break downs in roads, pedestrians and detours. How can a computer predict, process and make a judgment? Good thing is I’ll be gone before any of this comes to forition. Good luck all you texters, auto truck just killed you hopefully nobody else is involved.

  4. Gary

    With all the truckers that can’t follow GPS how’s a computer going to do better whats to stop an out of work truckers stoping them there is going to a lot of stuck truck cleaned out with no driver it won’t be long before you see bandits figure them out who is doing pre trip whos check tires I can see tow truck industry will busy what about winter conditions bad enough drivers can’t find a place to park id love to see computer get of snow on mile hill when they all jack knife what it do just set in the road way

  5. Atoms Matter

    This is not a good idea. What about oversized and overweight loads? You can’t always rely on computers to be accurate.
    You remember the song “In the year 2525”,
    Starting to feel that way. Technology is
    awesome to a point, but don’t let “IT” take over your life.

  6. Dean H. Arneson

    I am an experienced Truck driver and have had a commercial driving license since I was 18 I am almost 69 this month.
    I have one comment that I believe merits being thought of. What about extreme slippery conditions??? A human will reach a certain point and say it is just to slippery to continue. Plus you can sense when it’s getting bad. When you have accident with multiple injuries caused because of a driverless semi who is responsible?? What do you tell a mother who just lost a child???

Comments are closed.

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.