How will the first self-driving 18-wheeler change the trucking labor market?
For nearly a century, the nation’s wares have been transported across thousands of miles of highway by human beings, truckers, behind the wheel of 18-wheel vehicles. With the recent unveiling, by Daimler Demos, of the Freightliner Inspiration Truck (FIT), the first self-driving 18-wheeler, change is on the horizon. How will this development change the trucking labor force?
While the trucking industry goes on largely unperceived by the common American, its size and importance are formidable.
“In 2012, trucks transported about 70 percent of all freight tonnage in the country; globally, the industry is expected to triple by 2050. Autonomous trucks, Daimler said, could help ease into that growth without sacrificing economic and environmental needs,” writes PC Magazine.
While the idea of a self-driving truck would make one think that companies would no longer need truckers, this is untrue. The FIT has some limitations. For example, it cannot operate itself in heavy rain, snow or 30-40 MPH cross-winds. The job of the trucker will be modified and his wages may change, but he won’t be eliminated.
Speaking to the Washington Post, Richard Stocking, president of Swift Transportation, which operates 18,000 trucks, said, “This definitely could be a win-win for the driver and the company he works for, to be able to do other things when he is in that autonomous mode.”
According to the Washington Post, businesspersons like Stocking are already visualizing their drivers, “doing a potpourri of tasks, perhaps tracking deliveries and entering information relevant to [their] load with the help of an iPad or headset.”
Stocking also speculated that the typical trucker profile may change as well: “He [said] autonomous trucks may bring in new populations as drivers, such as college students looking to make money on a weekend. [He] also threw out the possibility of drivers seeing their wages increase as they take on additional duties, and are not just paid for the miles they cover,” reports the Washington Post.
Not all stakeholder reactions are characterized by unbridled enthusiasm. The American Trucking Associations (ATA), a leading advocate for the trucking industry, strongly supports technological development but also wants to invite the public into further dialogue concerning infrastructure, weather and how else the FIT will impact the labor force.
In a statement submitted by Sean McNally, Vice President of Public Affairs and Press Secretary for the ATA, the Associations say: “ATA supports the development of new technologies that can improve the safety and efficiency of our industry, so we will be watching the development of these autonomous vehicles very closely. That said, there are real questions—ranging from cargo security to the impact of aging infrastructure and weather on their performance—about how these vehicles will fit into the trucking industry, and those don’t even touch the economic questions surrounding the effect automation will have on our industry’s labor force and the cost of these technologies.”
One thing is for sure. Things will never be the same in American trucking.
"The application of this innovative technology to one of America's most important industries will have a lasting impact on our state and help shape the new Nevada economy," said Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, foreshadowing things to come for the rest of the country.
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Intelliwave SiteSense boosts APTIM material tracking
“We’ve been engaged with the APTIM team since early 2019 providing SiteSense, our mobile construction SaaS solution, for their maintenance and construction projects, allowing them to track materials and equipment, and manage inventory.
We have been working with the APTIM team to standardize material tracking processes and procedures, ultimately with the goal of reducing the amount of time spent looking for materials. Industry studies show that better management of materials can lead to a 16% increase in craft labour productivity.
Everyone knows construction is one of the oldest industries but it’s one of the least tech driven comparatively. About 95% of Engineering and Construction data captured goes unused, 13% of working hours are spent looking for data and around 30% of companies have applications that don’t integrate.
With APTIM, we’re looking at early risk detection, through predictive analysis and forecasting of material constraints, integrating with the ecosystem of software platforms and reporting on real-time data with a ‘field-first’ focus – through initiatives like the Digital Foreman. The APTIM team has seen great wins in the field, utilising bar-code technology, to check in thousands of material items quickly compared to manual methods.
There are three key areas when it comes to successful Materials Management in the software sector – culture, technology, and vendor engagement.
Given the state of world affairs, access to data needs to be off site via the cloud to support remote working conditions, providing a ‘single source of truth’ accessed by many parties; the tech sector is always growing, so companies need faster and more reliable access to this cloud data; digital supply chain initiatives engage vendors a lot earlier in the process to drive collaboration and to engage with their clients, which gives more assurance as there is more emphasis on automating data capture.
It’s been a challenging period with the pandemic, particularly for the supply chain. Look what happened in the Suez Canal – things can suddenly impact material costs and availability, and you really have to be more efficient to survive and succeed. Virtual system access can solve some issues and you need to look at data access in a wider net.
Solving problems comes down to better visibility, and proactively solving issues with vendors and enabling construction teams to execute their work. The biggest cause of delays is not being able to provide teams with what they need.
On average 2% of materials are lost or re-ordered, which only factors in the material cost, what is not captured is the duplicated effort of procurement, vendor and shipping costs, all of which have an environmental impact.
As things start to stabilise, APTIM continues to utilize SiteSense to boost efficiencies and solve productivity issues proactively. Integrating with 3D/4D modelling is just the precipice of what we can do. Access to data can help you firm up bids to win work, to make better cost estimates, and AI and ML are the next phase, providing an eco-system of tools.
A key focus for Intelliwave and APTIM is to increase the availability of data, whether it’s creating a data warehouse for visualisations or increasing integrations to provide additional value. We want to move to a more of an enterprise usage phase – up to now it’s been project based – so more people can access data in real time.