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New ITF report highlights potential issues from widespread introduction of driverless trucks

A new report published by the International Transport Forum (ITF) and three partner organizations, says governments worldwide must consider ways to manage the transition to driverless trucks in order to avoid the potential social disruption from job losses.

The new study says automated road freight will save costs, reduce emissions, and make roads safer, but their impact on driver jobs requires a managed transition.

The report notes that self-driving trucks could also address the shortage of professional drivers faced by road transport industry, with automated trucks potentially reducing the demand for drivers by 50-70% in the USA 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.

Another projection examined by the report suggests that even if the rise of driverless trucks dissuades newcomers from trucking, over 2 million drivers in the USA and Europe could be directly displaced.

The report makes four recommendations to help manage the transition to driverless road freight:

• Establish a transition advisory board to advise on labor 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 jointly by organizations representing truck manufacturers, truck operators and transport workers’ unions, led by the ITF. The report was prepared jointly 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 ITF, an intergovernmental organization linked to the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development).

“Driverless trucks could be a regular presence on many roads within the next 10 years,” noted José Viegas, secretary-general of the ITF. “Self‑driving trucks already operate in controlled environments, and trials on public roads are under way in many regions including the USA and Europe. Manufacturers are investing heavily in automation, and many governments are actively reviewing their regulations. Preparing now for potential negative social impact of job losses will mitigate the risks in case a rapid transition occurs.”

ACEA secretary general Erik Jonnaert added, “Harmonization of rules across countries is critical for maximizing the gains from driverless truck technology. We need international standards, legislation and processes to obtain exemptions from road rules that are appropriate for self-driving trucks.”

June 1, 2017

Written by Adam Frost

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