August 07, 2016
Massive Layoffs When Trucks Become Autonomous

1.8 million people in the United States drive heavy trucks for a living and are at risk of losing their jobs when trucks become autonomous. That number is from the BLS category heavy and tractor-trailer trucking with 1.8 million employees. A separate category Delivery Truck Drivers and Driver/Sales Workers has 1.3 million workers.

The heavy duty truckers are more at risk than the local delivery drivers because it is easier to automate long haul driving on interstates than to automate driving on more complex (cross traffic, pedestrians, parked cars, etc) local roads. Plus, delivery drivers have to run up to houses and businesses to make most deliveries. Building robots to do that work will take longer.

Railroad operation is easier to automate and BLS thinks railroad employment will shrink in coming years. Railroads employed 113,000 people in 2014 and that's expected to shrink 3% by 2024 even as rail volume rises.

233,700 people worked as taxi drivers and chauffeurs in 2014 with a 14% rise expected by 2024. That all depends on when autonomous vehicles hit the market that can handle local surface roads. At some point taxi driving is going to drop sharply as fully autonomous vehicles take over. But when? Some auto industry executives predict introduction full autonomy not happening until 2030 and even later.

My guess is that current 55 year old truckers will retire from their jobs. But 45 year old truckers are going to get laid off before retiring.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2016 August 07 06:51 PM 

aandrews said at August 9, 2016 12:58 PM:

There could be an under-appreciated fly in the ointment with regard to autonomous vehicles, liability-wise as well as safety-wise.

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