The question on everyone’s mind for 2022 is how to solve the driver shortage. Due to drivers retiring and companies struggling to hire a younger workforce, the trucking industry is currently short 80,000 workers (according to the American Trucking Associations, or ATA). Driver regulations add another hurdle for carriers who are trying to attract drivers. Those in the logistics industry are fully aware of the problems; the question is, what are the solutions? Some believe autonomous trucking is the technology needed to relieve the driver shortage and help solve the urgent needs trucking companies are facing. The problem is that this is not an immediate solution. From assisted driving technology to autonomous truck convoys, to autonomous trucks moving on the interstate, the timeline for viability concerning each one varies.

From a safety perspective, many believe technology-assisted driving provides more security than young 18- or 19-year-olds who are driving on their own. Telematic devices that can detect things like hard braking, acceleration, or speeding offer an added measure of safety. Alarms to alert the driver to potential problems help to avoid collisions. Since these devices have been used there has been a robust reduction in safety incidents. Convoy technology is another solution. It uses human-led, two-truck autonomous relay with two drivers. Because drivers take turns sleeping and leading the convoy, cargo can get moved twice as far twice as fast. Autonomous trucks can be especially beneficial for “middle miles,” those miles that are between an origin and the highway, and the last miles of a trip which include the distance between an exit off a highway and a destination site. Still, it is predicted these vehicles will not be running across all lanes throughout the nation for at least another decade.

Safety and regulatory concerns are the main issues in delaying the deployment of autonomous vehicles, but studies have shown that 94% of all accidents involve driver-related factors. An autonomous truck does not drink alcohol, take drugs, get tired, become distracted, or drive aggressively. But they are not cheap, so even when they do become available, less than half of trucking firms believe they will be able to purchase the technology, so while it seems obvious that autonomous trucking is on horizon, it might be a while until they are able to actually help solve the driver shortage. Because Soren is a 3PL company, driver shortage affects us every day. We look forward to whatever solutions become available to help solve the problem, including new technology that allows trucks to run safer, longer, and more efficiently. Until then, despite driver shortages or other industry setbacks, we will keep servicing our customers and working hard with carriers to move your freight (!