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The Last Word

Technology Gains and Losses

By Paul Enos, CEO of Nevada Trucking Association

I couldn't make it to Las Vegas on May 6, when Daimler Trucks tested their autonomous driving software on the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. I sent our Member Relations Director Kim Yaeger to the press conference and demonstration. 

While she was in Las Vegas, I was at a board meeting of the Hays Truck Museum, currently in a warehouse while money is raised for a new museum wing. We were looking at trucks ranging from a 1903 Knox to a 1979 cab over Ford. 

The industry has changed a lot since 1903, and as evidenced with the first driverless truck, that change will continue. I think about what other impacts this technology will have in the future. Will it reduce the need to build new roads due to increased capacity through the uniform speeds of driverless cars? Will zero fatalities be an achievable goal? Will the industry see our first productivity gains in a generation when one driver can now move 3 trucks? The technology has the ability to solve the issue of an aging industry that can't find enough drivers to fill all of our trucks, but what will we lose? 

It amazes me how many people my age and under can't drive a stick shift—a skill that has been lost through automation. What skills are our drivers going to be losing? Will the next generation of truck drivers be less proficient at backing up and docking because they won’t need those skillsets? Are we going to lose the skillset that requires drivers to plan their movement ten steps ahead? Will computers make that premeditation obsolete?

It's going to be an interesting time rivaling 1935, when the Motor Carrier Act was passed, the formation of the Interstate Highway System in the 1950s and the subsequent deregulation of industry in 1980. There were winners and losers, both broadly and in our industry with each change. 

I don't think resisting this change to autonomous trucks is going to be an option that results in success. Just look at the companies that didn't change their model after deregulation: P.I.E. and Consolidated Freight are among the companies that are gone. On a macro scale, it has been great for the economy, reducing the average cost of transportation built into a product from 25 percent to 7 percent or less, but I know many older drivers who say that it has hurt the strength of the industry. An old Confucius proverb/curse states, "May you live in interesting times." For trucking, those times are now. 

Paul J. Enos serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Nevada Trucking Association and a lobbyist for the trucking industry.

 

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Arkansas Trucking Association
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1401 West Capitol Ave.
Little Rock, AR 72201

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