Self-Driving Trucks and the Future of US Supply Chains

With more and more technology and transportation companies signing up to develop and test self-driving technology, it is more realistic than ever to expect to see the automated commercial trucks on the highways in the near future.

At this point, companies are looking to release the autonomous technology on the commercial trucks that can self-drive on the highway or on specific routes, which will bring a huge impact on the industry.

Current technology allows trucks to navigate and respond to traffic conditions without driver intervention. In October 2017, a self-driving truck carrying about 2,000 cases of beverage drove over 120 miles on an interstate of Colorado. Current self-driving technology is limited to long-haul highway operations, and a human truck driver will be required to be present in the back of the cab and drive the truck on the local roads.

Otto, a technology company acquired by Uber in 2016, insists that they are still many years away from having completely automated trucks. Still, it is important to know that the companies can utilize the limited autonomous technology to improve the efficiency of the human drivers. We can already benefit from this technology by reducing freight costs, accidents, and by enhancing the work experience of human drivers.

The achievable goals include improved safety, fuel efficiency, and labor efficiency. With this technology allowing the trucks to cruise nearly 24/7, the freight costs are projected to drastically drop due to the eliminated time needed for the drivers to pull over to rest. There is also a potential to cut down accidents by eliminating human errors and an opportunity for increased fuel efficiency with the use of programmed acceleration and driving speed. The increased benefits and enhanced experience for truck drivers can also attract drivers, which can also improve recruiting and training. This increased efficiency of drivers is projected to bring some solution to the truck driver shortage problem.

All the benefits listed above will become effective only if there are new regulations made for the use of the technology. Some major transportation companies and manufacturers have pursued new federal rules for the past few years, and they continue to do so for these developments to reach commercial use.