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Report: Countries Should Act Now to Avoid Social Disruption from Autonomous Trucks

September 5, 2017

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Countries should begin working together now to ensure smooth adoption of autonomous truck technologies, says a new report. Photo: Freightliner
Countries should begin working together now to ensure smooth adoption of autonomous truck technologies, says a new report. Photo: Freightliner

Autonomous trucks could reduce the demand for drivers by 50 to 70% in the U.S. and Europe by 2030, says a new report issued by the International Transport Forum on the advantages – and challenges – that emerging self-driving vehicle technology will present in the coming years.

ITF is an intergovernmental think tank with 59 member countries that focuses on global transport policies.

According to the report, trucking companies in the U.S. and Europe are projected to need 6.4 million drivers by 2030-- but autonomous technology could eliminate as many as 4.4 million of those jobs. The report also found that autonomous trucks will help save costs, lower emissions and make roads safer.

However, governments should now consider ways to manage the transition to autonomous trucks to avoid potential social disruption from those job losses, the report stressed.

“We want to ensure an orderly transition,” said José Viegas, ITF secretary-general, at a press conference called to release the report. “Within 10 years, driverless trucks could be common” on many public roads, he said, adding that the only doubts are exactly when and how the technology will become commonplace.

The report makes four recommendations to help manage the transition to autonomous road freight:

  • Establish a transition advisory board to advise on labor issues
  • Consider a temporary permit system to manage the speed of adoption
  • Set international standards, road rules and vehicle regulations for self-driving trucks
  • Continue pilot projects with driverless trucks to test vehicles, network technology and communications protocols

Anders Kellstrom of the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association pointed out that autonomous vehicles are not new, citing recent platooning trials in Europe and the U.S., and noting that the technology is quickly “accelerating and expanding.”

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