Driverless Trucks Could Be Freight Transport's Future, Depending on Gov't Regulations: Report

Ensuring an orderly transition toward a future of automated, driverless trucks is sure to be an impending task of policymakers across the globe, according to a new report released on Wednesday (31/05). (Photo Courtesy of the International Transport Forum)

By : Sheany | on 9:40 AM June 01, 2017
Category : News, Featured, Transportation

Leipzig. Ensuring an orderly transition toward a future of automated, driverless trucks is an impending task for global policymakers, according to a new report released on Wednesday (31/05). 

"Governments must consider ways to manage the transition to driverless trucks in order to avoid potential social disruption from job losses," the report said. 

The report, "Managing the Transition to Driverless Road Freight Transport," was jointly prepared by the International Transport Forum (ITF), European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA), International Road Transport Union (IRU) and the International Transport Workers’ Federation. 

As rapid technological changes transform all facets of society, the transportation industry in particular is looking at a future of road freight transport that is projected to cut down costs, reduce emissions and make roads safer.

"Self-driving trucks already operate in controlled environments like ports or mines. Trials on public roads are under way in many regions, including in the United States and the European Union," José Viegas, ITF secretary-general, said during the report’s launch in Leipzig, Germany.

Additionally, driverless trucks will also address a shortage of professional drivers in the industry. 

However, the report highlights the need for a cautious transition to automation, as mental and physical consequences of job losses are believed to wreak more havoc on an individual's personal welfare than the actual loss of income.

Preparing for potential negative social impacts as a result of job losses is essential to mitigate possible risks associated with rapid transitions.

According to the report, available support for displaced workers in developed economies might be inadequate to manage such a transition, highlighting the need for more active and comprehensive policies and safety nets for drivers facing the chopping block.

"Changes are often inevitable in our industry, but automation will probably have the biggest and longest-lasting impact in our history. Benefits, yes. But also at a significant costs – millions of jobs will be disappearing," Mac Urata of the International Transport Workers’ Federation said.

He added that automated trucks could reduce the demand for drivers by more than 50 percent in the United States and Europe by 2030, with the possibility of up to 4.4 million professional trucking jobs becoming redundant. 

The report recommends establishing a transition board to advise on labor issues, setting up a temporary permit system to manage the speed of adoption, setting international standards on road rules and putting in place vehicle regulations for self-driving trucks.

It also called for a continuation of driverless truck pilot projects to ensure that the technology is foolproof.

"Cooperation is key to bringing all key stakeholders together and to develop solutions," said Anders Kellstrom, Volvo’s senior product planning manager and automation spokesperson.

Secretary-general of ACEA Erik Jonnaert said in a statement received by the Jakarta Globe that the harmonization of rules across different countries is critical to maximize gains from driverless truck technology.

"Automated trucks are clearly not a national issue, as they should be able to move smoothly across borders. We need international standards, legislation and processes to obtain exemptions from road rules that are appropriate for self-driving trucks," Jonnaert said.

"Otherwise, we risk having a patchwork of rules and regulations, which could hinder manufacturers and road users from investing in automated vehicles."

The report, which urges governments to review existing regulations to better accommodate self-driving trucks, focused on existing policies and infrastructure in the United States and Europe.

Viegas said this was mainly due to a lack of data availability on other continents, adding that similar studies can certainly be applied to other regions as long as data is available.

"Managing the Transition to Driverless Road Freight Transport" was launched during the 2017 ITF Summit in Leipzig, Germany. The theme of this year's event is "Governance of Transport."

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