How Driverless Trucks are Revolutionizing the Long-Haul Industry

In the short term, most American truck drivers have a pretty good job outlook in the short-term. Industry experts predict that we’ll see a 21% increase in long-haul trucking jobs by 2020. The number of qualified drivers in the business is also falling significantly, so this higher demand will also be good news for long-haul drivers. However, not long after 2022, we’re expected to see this trend hit a serious obstacle: the autonomous long-haul vehicle.


I’m sure that you’ve already heard something about the futuristic driverless vehicles which we’re only just starting to see. When Google announced that its own driverless car had clocked 100,000 miles on public roads without having an accident, the world was shocked. Only 11 accidents have occurred in the course of these trials, and all of them have been caused by human error rather than the computers controlling the cars. Chris Urmson, the director of the whole program, has also explained that Google’s driverless cars are only really dangerous when used in built-up, metropolitan areas. When it comes to the long stretches of freeway between different settlements, driverless vehicles are already much safer. With this in mind, I’m pretty certain that we’ll start seeing commercial applications for driverless vehicles long before we’re using those cars ourselves. This great leap in technology is expected to be the biggest change in the long-haul industry since GPS fleet management software.

This intriguing new tech could be closer than you might think. The first driverless long-haul truck was successfully tested in May 2015 by the automotive giant Daimler. This has been the first instance where driverless long-haul trucks have become a tangible reality. According to Daimler, the trucks they’re working on have got a ten-year testing process ahead of them, during which they’re expected to drive over a million miles. Unlike Google’s self-driving car, these autonomous long-haul trucks don’t operate using a LIDAR or laser-radar. The whole system relies on a regular radar and some cameras mounted to the vehicle. These kinds of tech might sound severely dated to you. Well, they are. However, a lot of industry experts suggest that driverless long-haul trucks have been put off for so long due to safety regulations and lack of funding, rather than any significant technological difficulty. If one of Daimler’s current autonomous trucks needs any kind of assistance from the driver, then it will alert them. If the driver fails to respond, then the vehicle will gradually pull over and wait for the error to be corrected. I’m afraid we’re still a fairly long way away from KITT from Knight Rider. However, what’s truly revolutionary is that challenges in the economy, and the US government itself, are finally out of the way of such an exciting new technology.

Underride_guard_full-width_impact_test-car-crashSource: Wikimedia

Probably one of the most significant changes that’s going to come out of driverless trucks is the reduced amount of accidents. This is one of the biggest factors that makes long-haul trucking a dangerous and steadily more unpopular career. In the US in 2012, for example, 330,000 large trucks were involved in crashes which killed over 3,500 people. Almost all of these were found to be caused by the driver. It may not be quite as exciting as the sci-fi horror scenario you’ve been thinking about, but having robot trucks on our roads will result in far fewer deaths from traffic accidents. Autonomous vehicles have a few simple advantages over human drivers, which can make all the difference when it comes to safety on the road. The computers in these vehicles don’t get distracted, or skip their recommended stops and fall asleep at the wheel. Similarly, these machines can’t engage in even more reckless behaviour, such as drinking or taking drugs before operating the vehicle, or looking at a phone instead of the road ahead. The reduced cost of autonomous vehicles is another important factor to consider. Truck driver salaries are going up with greater demand. With a self-driving truck, you’d only have to buy it once, and use it for as long as you like. This means that trucking companies which are going through financial difficulties will soon be able to wave away all of their HR difficulties. Instead, they can pay a fixed amount for a fleet of automatous trucks, and never pay a regular salary again!

As we move into the future, keep a look out for this incredible technology. Although self-driving long haul vehicles and consumer cars are both pretty exciting, I’m sure that we’re only just seeing the beginning of a revolution!

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About Dequiana Jackson

Dequiana Jackson, Founder of Inspired Marketing, Inc., helps overachieving women entrepreneurs conquer limiting beliefs and create marketing plans that grow their businesses. This includes one-on-one marketing plan development, digital product creation, web design and content marketing. Dequiana is the author of Know Your Business: How to Attract Ideal Clients & Sell More and runs the award-winning blog,

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