31 May 2017

New Report Highlights Social Issues of Technological Change to the Road Haulage Industry  

Warning that Issues Need to be Considered Now

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Shipping News Feature WORLDWIDE – The developments that the road haulage industry can expect to experience from changing technology is an issue that all in the freight and logistics sector should be keeping a close eye on. Of particular interest is the increasing amount of research aimed at autonomous freight vehicles that offer the prospect of cheaper running costs and reduced emissions. Advanced projects are either in development or else already in service for vehicles that operate by road, sea and in the air.

But whilst commercial operations and governments might be beginning to appreciate the positive potential of such automation, unions are starting to consider the long term implications on society if suddenly large segments of the population find themselves obsolete. Governments must consider ways to manage the transition to driverless trucks in order to avoid potential social disruption from job losses, says a new report published by the International Transport Forum (ITF) with three partner organisations: The European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA), the International Transport Workers’ Federation and the International Road Transport Union (IRU)

The study acknowledges that self-driving trucks will help save costs, lower emissions, and make roads safer. The technology could also address the shortage of professional drivers the road transport industry currently faces, but the ITF looks past the immediate benefits and warns that automated trucks could potentially reduce the demand for drivers by 50-70% in the US and Europe by 2030, with up to 4.4 million of the projected 6.4 million professional trucking jobs becoming redundant.

Even if the rise of driverless trucks dissuades newcomers from trucking, over 2 million drivers in the US and Europe could be directly displaced, according to scenarios examined for the report, which makes four recommendations to help manage the transition to driverless road freight:

  • Establish a transition advisory board to advise on labour issues.
  • Consider a temporary permit system to manage the speed of adoption.
  • Set international standards, road rules and vehicle regulations for self-driving trucks.
  • Continue pilot projects with driverless trucks to test vehicles, network technology and communications protocols.

These recommendations were agreed jointly by organisations representing truck manufacturers, truck operators and transport workers’ unions, under the auspices of an intergovernmental organisation. José Viegas, Secretary-General of the International Transport Forum (ITF) said:

“Driverless trucks could be a regular presence on many roads within the next ten years. Self driving trucks already operate in controlled environments like ports or mines. Trials on public roads are under way in many regions including the United States and the European Union. Manufacturers are investing heavily into automation, and many governments are actively reviewing their regulations. Preparing now for potential negative social impact of job losses will mitigate the risks in case a rapid transition occurs.”

The report can be downloaded HERE.

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