You don’t hear trucking come up much during presidential campaigns. But the industry — or, more accurately, the threat that automation could pose a grave threat to driving jobs in the future — came up during the Democratic primary debate in Atlanta on Nov. 20.
During the debate, New York tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang, who is running to be the Democratic Party’s 2020 presidential nominee, said that if elected to the nation’s highest office, he would appoint a “trucking czar” to oversee the onset of autonomous technology and ease the transition for drivers and other workers in the industry who lose their jobs to robots.
This is not a new subject for Yang, who has repeatedly warned voters about the threats automation poses to human workers and their jobs in multiple industries, including trucking. Considered to be a “far left” candidate, Yang has even proposed a universal income initiative, which he calls the Freedom Dividend, which would pay American families a guaranteed universal income to help ease the transition to a more autonomous world.
Ahead of the debate, on Nov. 14, Yang published an op-ed in the New York Times entitled “Yes, Robots are Stealing Your Job,” in which he noted that, “Self-driving trucks will be great for the GDP. They’ll be terrible for millions of truck drivers.”
On his website, Yang expands on his proposals futher. "Truck driving is the most common job in 29 states," he explains on the site. “As automation improves, millions of American workers' livelihoods are at stake. We need to engineer a smooth transition for these millions of workers so that their contributions are recognized and that they benefit from some of the new efficiencies and cost savings."
Among the solutions Yang is proposing as part of his presidential run is appointing a "trucking czar" to help displaced truck drivers adjust as autonomous trucks move into every day use in the industry.
Yang has said he would ask Andy Stern, the former president of the Service Employees International Union, a senior fellow at the Economic Security Project and the author of a book on the universal income, to lead a commission overseeing the transition.
Yang has also proposed levying taxes on fleets that lay off humans in favor of autonomous trucks, which would go directly to affected drivers in the form of severance packages.
"The estimated cost savings and efficiency gains of automated freight are $168 billion per year, which is enough to pay the truckers significant sums and still save tens of billions per year," he notes on his campaign website.
Yang is considered a dark-horse, far-left candidate in the 2020 Democratic field. As of Nov. 21, he is polling at around 3% in the race for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.