Autonomous vehicles and driver shortages topped the agenda of the spring meetings at IRU’s goods transport council today, with Chris Spear, President and CEO of American Trucking Associations, focusing on ‘driver assisted’ rather than ‘driver displaced’ technology.
Spear encourages the industry and regulators to look at the next 5-15 years, which promise to deliver assisted driving rather than a switch to full automation. Platooning shows how assisted technology can yield clear gains on safety, emissions reduction and efficiency.
Assisted driving also has the potential to transform the workforce to become younger and more technologically skilled in the very near future. He argues for training and investment into a new block of aspiring talent to ease current driver shortages.
Spear highlights the industry’s duty to “engage and drive outcomes” now, outlining the benefits of better connectivity to eliminate congestion, streamline services and offer economic gains.
Commercial transport is the best place to develop and accelerate autonomous technology, given its business-to-business interests, which stand to reap considerable cost rewards. An interchange with passenger transport is critical, and over time small businesses will see the value in adopting the technology.
Finally, he encourages the industry to look beyond trucking, citing the example of intermodal connectivity in the US, where “trucking is now rail’s biggest customer” and the services are fully integrated, thanks to technology.