With 70% of all goods in the US moved by the trucking industry, the need for a robust work force is apparent. The problem? There is an estimated 80,500-plus shortfall of drivers, a figure forecast to reach 162,000 by 2030, according to the American Trucking Association (ATA). The answer, some observers say, is driverless trucks.
While it might sound futuristic (and a little scary) that future is already here as there are tractor trailers currently navigating the nation’s highways, hitting the open road with absolutely nobody behind the wheel.
San Diego-based TuSimple, an autonomous driving technology, was founded in 2015 aiming to improve the safety and efficiency of the trucking industry; as such, it has already created a freight network along the Sun Belt from Phoenix to Houston.
“This is better, no doubt about it,” said Jim Mullen, chief administrator and legal officer for TuSimple. “That’s not a slight on the human driver whatsoever, it’s just factual.”
Mullen said TuSimple is not looking to push truckers out of a job. “If you’re a truck driver today—or even thinking about being a truck driver—you will continue to have a full career as a truck driver,” Mullen said.
Mullen said the benefits of driverless freight are numerous—it reduces fuel consumption and carbon emissions and works to alleviate supply chain delays.