ITF Report: The future of autonomous trucks

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by Emily Atkins
ITF autonomous
José Viegas, Anders Kellstrom, Christian Labrot and Mac Urata present the report. (Emily Atkins photo)

Self-driving trucks will help save costs, lower emissions and make roads safer. They could also address the shortage of professional drivers faced by the road transport industry, says a new report published by the International Transport Forum (ITF) with three partner organizations.

However, governments must consider ways to manage the transition to autonomous trucks in order to avoid potential social disruption from job losses, the study cautions.

Automated trucks could reduce the demand for drivers by 50 to 70 percent 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 two million drivers in the US and Europe could be directly displaced, according to scenarios examined for the report.

“We want to ensure an orderly transition,” said José Viegas, secretary-general of the International Transport Forum (ITF) at a press conference releasing the report. “Within 10 years driverless trucks could be common” on many public roads, he said. “The only doubts are exactly when and how” the transition will take place.

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

The report makes four recommendations to help manage the transition to autonomous road freight:
• Establish a transition advisory board to advise on labour 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.

These recommendations were agreed to jointly by organizations representing truck manufacturers, truck operators and transport workers’ unions.

The report was researched and written by the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA), the International Transport Workers’ Federation and the International Road Transport Union (IRU), the road transport industry’s global body, in a project led by the International Transport Forum.