While some stories in the media present automation as having the potential to eliminate large swaths of jobs in the near future, a new study by researchers Maury Gittleman and Kristen Monaco at the US Bureau of Labor Statistics argues otherwise.
In the open-access study, published in ILR Review, the authors projected that the employment loss among US truck drivers will be significantly less than the 2-3 million reported by some media accounts. They found that three factors attributed to the inflation of this report:
The count of truck drivers is increased due to a misunderstanding of its occupational classification used in federal statistics;
Truck drivers do more than drive and these non-driving tasks will continue to be in demand; and
Some segments of trucking will be easier to automate than others.
Expanding off this last point, the research suggests while autonomous trucks will change how goods travel through the nation’s transportation system and impact how trucks and cars interact on major freight corridors, not all trucking will be easily automated.
Technology will transform the existing design of the trucking industry but will not eliminate the need for all truck drivers. Long-haul trucking (which constitutes the minority of jobs) will be easier to automate than short-haul trucking (in which the bulk of the employment lies).
Their conclusions stress the need for paying close attention to the breadth of tasks performed, as well as certain factors that may impact the ease of automation.
Maury Gittleman, Kristen Monaco (2019) “Truck-Driving Jobs: Are They Headed for Rapid Elimination?” ILR Review doi: 10.1177/0019793919858079