The Need for Truck Drivers Isn’t Going to Go Away Anytime Soon

September 24th, 2021

Last time we talked about technology in the blog and how that’s going to be impacting the trucking industry. There are many ways the industry is becoming innovative, but when people hear the word ‘technology’, they think of self-driving vehicles and what that might do to drivers’ livelihoods. Although technology changes the trucking industry, truckers are going to be vitally important for the future, and here are three reasons why: 

Truck drivers do more than just drive trucks 

The big thing about being a truck driver is that driving the truck is only one aspect of the job. Moving product from point A to point B involves quite a few steps. Loading trucks can be a tricky business requiring experience, math and problem-solving skills. There is physical labour in carrying hoses and chaining up, and they are the front-line when it comes to representing our company and interacting with our clients. Drivers need to be properly trained in order to ensure their trips run effectively, all while looking out for any safety hazards on their trucks, trailers and at the plants for not only themselves but for others as well. Drivers also spend time maintaining logs and all other documentation required by the company and the client. 

Automated driving technology is still a long way off 

The word ‘automation’ is a lot more complicated than one may think. Automation takes place on different levels. When individuals hear automation, they may think complete automation with no human involvement- and that is level five automation, which is actually quite rare. The rating stands from level zero (no automation) to level five (complete automation). As you go up a level, the amount an individual interacts with the vehicle decreases and is dependent on who or what is controlling the driving functions, like acceleration and steering. Thus far, even attempted demonstrations of level five automation are few and far between, meaning that the technology is not yet available in any reliable way. 

There is already a shortage of drivers, especially for long-haul truck drivers 

It is known in the trucking industry that there is a shortage of truck drivers. Even before the pandemic, this was an issue in both the United States and Canada, and it’s become more pronounced. FTR Transportation Intelligence and SHRM have said some of the reasons for the shortage are a lack of schools providing training for a commercial driver’s licence, a reduction in training and testing during the pandemic, competition from other industries like construction and warehousing, and increased opportunities in parcel delivery which allows drivers to stay closer to home. Long-haul truck drivers are highly skilled and licensed and are the most in-demand. Due to these requirements, they are also the most difficult to replace with automation.  

For more information on the future of trucking automation, check out this article by Harvard Business Review. 

At Northwest Tank Lines we value our truck drivers and are looking for more, so if you know of anyone who might want to join the Northwest family, let us know!