Today’s Pickup: NAFTA, autonomous trucks and freight disruption


Good day.

In its latest State of the Freight webinar last week, FTR experts laid out their expectations and timelines for freight disruption, and as expected, sections were devoted to NAFTA and autonomous trucks.

“Right now, NAFTA is our major concern,” Eric Starks, CEO & chairman, said. “Where Mexico and Canada are much more uneasy about things, the likelihood that things could change over the next several years is higher. What does that freight movement look like? It’s really hard to tell what that full impact is.”

On autonomous trucks, the outlook confirms what some are saying – the likelihood of driverless vehicles on the roadways tomorrow is not realistic. Starks said that public acceptance of the vehicles is just one step. Will fleets invest and what is their return on investment are others. Starks doesn’t think the nation will see full autonomous vehicles on the roads until at least 2025 (and even than with a driver backup). It will be at least 2030 and more likely 2040 before autonomous vehicles are commonplace.

Did you know?

According to FTR, it costs $24 per ton mile to move goods through the labor-intensive final mile delivery process.


 “Right now, we’re seeing growth. That suggests we’re in a relatively healthy environment. Is this a short-term blip or will we start seeing fundamental growth? Right now we don’t see that looming recession around the corner, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be happening.”-

- Eric Starks, CEO & Chairman, FTR

In other news:

Spot, contract rates coming to agreement

The gap between spot rates and contract rates continues to close according to recent data. Dry van spot rates are now less than 0.5% above contract rates. (Transport Topics)

Truckers and guns

The debate over whether truck drivers should, and should be allowed, to carry permitted guns for protection is a web of local, state and federal laws that make the decision difficult. (

Immigrant truck drivers

According to a Fleet Owner report, immigrants make up a large portion of the U.S. Class 8 driving population – about 18% in fact. (Fleet Owner)

In search of drivers

The government has proposed two new streamlined programs that it said will make it easier for trucking companies to find drivers. The first involves drivers coming from the military and the second is an expanded driver permitting program. (American Shipper)

Autonomous cargo ships

A global mining company is exploring autonomous cargo ships as a way to move its ore around the world inexpensively. (Supply Chain Brain)

Final Thoughts

With all the concern about autonomous trucks taking driver’s jobs, more and more experts are starting to make the point that it will likely be 20 years or more before a significant number of drivers’ jobs are in jeopardy due to automation.

Hammer down everyone!