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 from the International Transport Forum.
Self-driving trucks will help save costs, lower emissions and make roads safer. They could also address the shortage of professional drivers faced by the road transport industry, the study says. But they could 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, according to one scenario.
Even if the rise of driverless trucks dissuades newcomers from trucking, over two million drivers in the US and Europe could be directly displaced, according to scenarios examined for the report.
The report was prepared jointly by the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association, the International Transport Workers’ Federation and the International Road Transport Union, in a project led by the International Transport Forum, a Paris-based intergovernmental organisation linked to the OECD.
“Driverless trucks could be a regular presence on many roads within the next ten years,” José Viegas, Secretary-General of the ITF, said. “Self-driving trucks already operate in controlled environments like ports and mines. Trials on public roads are underway in many regions including the United States and European Union. Manufacturers are investing heavily in automation, and many governments are actively reviewing their regulations. Preparing now for the potential negative social impact of job losses will mitigate the risks in case a rapid transition occurs.”
IRU President Christian Labrot commented: “Autonomous vehicles will also help the haulage sector deal with the current shortage of drivers in many parts of the world. However we have to remember the dedicated drivers of today will need to be retrained tomorrow, and we must keep attracting professionals into road transport. We all need to work together for a smooth transition to driverless technology.”
And Erik Jonnaert, the Secretary General of ACEA, added: “Harmonisation of rules across countries is critical for maximising the gains from driverless truck technology. Automated trucks are clearly not a national issue, as they should be able to move smoothly across borders. We need international standards, legislation and processes to obtain exemptions from road rules that are appropriate for self-driving trucks. Otherwise, we risk having a patchwork of rules and regulations, which could hinder manufacturers and road users from investing in automated vehicles.”