Driverless Trucks: New Report Maps Out Global Action On Driver Jobs And Legal Issues
AUTOMATED ROAD FREIGHT WILL SAVE COSTS, REDUCE EMISSIONS, MAKE ROADS SAFER. BUT THE IMPACT ON DRIVER JOBS REQUIRES A MANAGED TRANSITION, SAYS STUDY.
Governments must consider ways to manage the transition to driverless trucks in order to avoid potential social disruption from job losses, says a new report published by the International Transport Forum (ITF) with three partner organisations.
Self-driving trucks will help save costs, lower emissions and make roads safer. They could also address the shortage of professional drivers faced by road transport industry, the study says.
But automated trucks could reduce the demand for drivers by 50-70% in the US and Europe by 2030, with up to 4.4 million of the projected 6.4 million professional trucking jobs becoming redundant, according to one scenario.
Even if the rise of driverless trucks dissuades newcomers from trucking, over 2 million drivers in the US and Europe could be directly displaced, according to scenarios examined for the report.
The report makes four recommendations to help manage the transition to driverless road freight:
Establish a temporary transition advisory board for the trucking industry -
Governments should establish a transition advisory board for the trucking industry to advise on labour issues associated with the introduction of driverless trucks. The board should be temporary and include representatives from labour unions, road freight businesses, vehicle manufacturers and government. It would support the government in choosing the right policy mix to ensure that costs, benefits and risks from automated road haulage are fairly distributed.
Consider a temporary permit system to manage the speed of adoption and to support a just transition for displaced drivers, while ensuring fair access to markets -
Governments should consider a mechanism to shape the transition to driverless trucks. A permit system would offer influence over the speed of uptake as well as revenue to support displaced drivers. Where economy-wide unemployment support is considered inadequate, additional assistance could come in the form of targeted labour market programs to try to re-deploy drivers. It could also take the form of additional income replacement payments where alternative employment opportunities have also been reduced by automation. For reasons of fairness, funds for transition assistance should be generated by the main beneficiaries of the operation of driverless trucks. The sale of permits to operators experiencing operating cost reductions could be complemented by contributions of all road users who will benefit from improved safety. Careful design of the permit system would ensure that permits are used to manage the labour transition fairly and not as a proxy to limit the free movement of goods.
Set international standards, road rules and vehicle regulations for self-driving trucks -
Harmonisation of rules across countries is critical for maximising the gains from driverless truck technology. Common vehicle standards and operational rules would allow smooth cross-border movements of autonomous trucks and should be put in place at least at a continental level, preferably at the global level. The proactive approach of many governments to test permits and ad hoc exemptions to road rules allows different approaches to be tested in parallel which can speed up the maturing of the technology. However, such competition entails the risk of insufficient attention on the ultimate goal of harmonisation.
Continue driverless truck pilot projects to test vehicles, network technology and communications protocols -
Governments, industry and researchers should continue to advance tests on public roads in designated corridors and areas for trialling vehicles, network technology and communications protocols. This way various technologies are able to be tested without committing to an individual company, standard or technology early in the development process, ensuring that expensive network-wide investments are not wasted or over-specified. This will help ensure societal benefits from automated road freight transport will be maximised.
These recommendations were agreed jointly by organisations representing truck manufacturers, truck operators and transport workers’ unions, under the auspices of an intergovernmental organisation. This broad coalition of stakeholders lends the call to action particular weight.
The report was prepared jointly by the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA), the International Transport Workers’ Federation and the International Road Transport Union (IRU), the road transport’s industry’s global body, in a project led by the International Transport Forum, a Paris-based intergovernmental organisation linked to the OECD.
The ITF is an intergovernmental organisation with 57 member countries (including Canada, USA, Mexico, India). The only global body for all modes, it acts as policy think tank and organises the annual summit of transport ministers.