Autonomous trucks are delivering goods for customers, and they’re ushering in a world with safer roads and stronger supply chains.
But as self-driving fleets commercially scale, what effects can we expect on jobs and the economy?
The U.S. Department of Transportation studied this issue closely and, in 2021, issued a report on the macroeconomic impacts of automation in long-haul trucking. The report concludes that any decreases in trucking jobs will likely be due to natural occupational turnover rather than significant layoffs. What’s more, the report estimates that autonomous trucking will create 26,400 to 35,100 new jobs per year on average.
So what will these new jobs look like? And how might existing jobs change? Let’s dive deeper.
To plan for the jobs the autonomous vehicle industry will create in the coming decades, Aurora is laying the foundation for what these roles will look like and how workers will gain the skills and experience needed to succeed.
Aurora’s commercial-ready terminal in Palmer, Texas, and our growing Command Center are great examples of how the autonomous vehicle industry will create new workforce opportunities across the country. Our terminals provide services necessary to operate and scale self-driving fleets, including fueling, weigh stations, on-site maintenance, sensor calibration, and more, while our Command Center supports vehicles through dispatch, remote assistance, incident response, and asset management functions. These functions will help optimize fleet uptime, support safe operation of trucks on the road, and, crucially, involve a range of new jobs.
Aurora has already created many new roles to support autonomous trucking technology and its scaled deployment, including:
The qualified experts who fill these roles won’t appear out of thin air; Aurora has cross-trained a number of its existing workforce to transition into many of these critical roles, and we’re working with local communities and academic institutions to build this workforce.
Recently, Aurora worked with Pittsburgh Technical College to design an associate degree program that trains and accredits Fleet Support Technicians, giving them the tools they need to maintain autonomous vehicles and support operations. This complements work with Gallatin College in Bozeman, Montana, where Aurora is investing in new educational facilities to train sensor engineers and develop advanced lidar sensors. As the need for these professionals grows, academic degrees, technical training programs, and apprenticeships will be essential in building the workforce of the future.
“We have a diverse and talented team here at our terminals and Command Center, including experts who test and validate our autonomous trucks, maintain and monitor our vehicles, dispatch them to meet customers’ needs, and more. As we deploy larger and larger fleets, we’ll need more professionals to fill these crucial roles.”
Autonomous vehicles won’t just create the opportunity for new jobs—they’ll complement America’s existing workforce and cover some of the freight routes that many human drivers find undesirable. For today’s truck drivers, this could mean a shift away from grueling long-haul routes and toward shorter trips that keep them closer to home.
A Bureau of Labor Statistics report cited that full truckload carriers (FTLs), which often target long-haul routes, had an average annual turnover rate of 94% between 1995-2017. Conversely, less-than-truckload carriers (LTLs), which often target shorter routes, had an average turnover rate of 11.7% during the same period. While FTLs are not exclusive to long-haul routes and LTLs are not exclusive to shorter routes, these numbers imply a compelling trend about the desirability of local hauls over long distances.
Long-haul trucking jobs mean spending more time on the road and driving for extended, uninterrupted periods, which can lead to fatigue or distraction. In fact, according to federal data, truck drivers are 10 times more likely to be killed on the job than the average American worker due to these increased risks.
Trucking is a story of bifurcation. There are some excellent jobs and some terrible jobs – Steve Viscelli, Economic Sociologist and Logistics Researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, in “Why driving big rig trucks is a job fewer Americans dream about doing,” CNBC
Autonomous trucks are uniquely suited to these longer routes that are more challenging for today’s truck drivers. They can make lengthy trips between terminals and across the country without leaving homes or families behind, and they’re able to drive for long hours without getting tired or distracted. Assigning these long-haul routes to autonomous trucks would also help expand the entire freight and logistics ecosystem, creating more demand for truck drivers on the shorter routes many prefer.
“I’ve been driving trucks for 17 years, many of which have been spent on the road and away from my family. Now, I’m proud to work on self-driving technology that will take on exhausting long haul routes and help today’s truck drivers enjoy shorter hauls—improving quality of life and allowing them to be home with their families every day.”
At Aurora, we’re proud of the new jobs that self-driving technology has already created and will continue to create. These are roles that many of our vehicle operators can be and have been trained for, like advanced sensor technicians, terminal operators, or supporting positions in remote operations, dispatch, and data review. We’ve invested in jobs training and apprenticeships within and outside of Aurora to support these important transitions and will continue to work with our customers and local communities to do so.
“In addition to bolstering the safety on our roads, the resiliency of our supply chains, and the growth of our customers’ businesses, self-driving technology will benefit our workforce through new jobs and our communities through diversified economic growth—from Dallas to El Paso, Pittsburgh to Bozeman.”
This article was originally published by Aurora.
Use the form opposite to get in touch with Aurora directly to discuss any requirements you might have.