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Will Autonomous Driving Technology Make Transportation Jobs Disappear?


Are you a trucker and worried about losing your job to self-driving trucks? If so, you should be. The reality is, a transportation revolution is underway that will transform the industry and potentially displace millions of workers.

In a recent report created by Goldman Sachs, it’s projected that over 3 million United States trucking jobs might be cut, due to autonomous driving technology. This includes trucks of all sizes, not just the classic 18 wheelers’ so common on U.S. freeways. To put that number in perspective, that represents 1 in 50 American jobs!

Large Tech-Driven Companies Will Lead the Way

In the near term, truckers don’t need to get too worried. With the economy booming and unemployment rate at just 3.9%, drivers are in critical demand. Fast forward another two decades and things will look a lot different. Once self-driving trucks go into the mainstream, approximately 25,000 jobs will be eliminated per month. Tech savvy companies like Amazon and Wal-Mart will most likely lead the pack and begin the transition to autonomous vehicles first.

As the technology is refined and improved, the changeover will accelerate. In 25 years from now, there will be very few Americans working as drivers.

Currently There is a Shortage of Truckers in the U.S.

There is some good news for current truck drivers. Industry stats show a shortage of about 48,000 U.S. truckers. In the next 7 years that number will climb to nearly 200,000 drivers. One of the reasons why there is such a demand for drivers is a major shift in consumer buying habits.

In years past, people went to the mall and local stores to make their purchases. Today, millions are going online to shop year-round. Those purchases need to be delivered and that requires thousands of drivers.  For the time being, that means real, human drivers.

Another issue facing the transportation industry is many potential workers are scared of going into the profession, for fear of their jobs being replaced in the next few years. This perception, has added to the shortage of current drivers in the workforce.

Some Driving jobs that will be impacted Much Sooner

If you are in the ride-share industry, maybe you should start looking into a career change. Here are the driving jobs that will be hit first. These include:

  • Ride-Sharing Drivers (Current Uber, Lyft and Taxi Drivers beware)
  • Long-Haul Truckers
  • Bus Drivers

Traditionally, workers without a college degree, or who have a low level of education have been able to make a good living in the transportation industry. Those jobs will disappear forever, while higher skilled “IT” jobs will be in demand. This furthers a trend away from menial labor and towards high-technology jobs that require specialized skills.

In 2017 there were about 3.75 million driving jobs in the U.S. This represents everything from taxi and limo drivers to long haul semi-truck workers. While no-one knows for sure how long it will take for the majority of drivers to be displaced and out of work, one thing is for sure, it will happen. It may take as long as 25 years, or as few as 15, but change is coming.

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