HomeAutomobileHow Autonomous Trucks are Changing the Shipping Industry

How Autonomous Trucks are Changing the Shipping Industry

A long-haul truck that can operate continuously without stopping has long been a dream of the shipping industry. A truck could, in theory, drive from California to New York in 40 hours. However, the need to refuel and the human need for bathroom breaks and sleep turns this trip into a five- to six-day journey. The development of self-driving electric trucks means that the shipping industry’s dream of trucks that never need to stop could be achieved soon.

Hub to Hub Driving

Most shipping companies and truck manufacturers envision autonomous trucks that negotiate the highways from shipping hub to shipping hub and are then guided by a human driver to their final destination. Others talk about platooning, where one truck with a driver on board leads several other fully autonomous trucks. The principle is similar to that of a train.

Advantages of Autonomous Trucks

Fully autonomous trucks would have many advantages:

  • Efficiency
  • Safety
  • Reduced emissions
  • Driver satisfaction

Improved Efficiency and Productivity

Autonomous trucks will never sit idle while human drivers sleep. Powered by banks of batteries, they won’t have to stop to refuel. They will move freight quickly and efficiently from one hub to the next. Trucking companies will need fewer trucks to move the same amount of freight, and they will spend far less on fuel. They also won’t have to pay long-haul drivers. Overall, their operating costs will significantly decline.

Improved Safety

Although many people are suspicious of self-driving technology, human error is the cause of the vast majority of traffic accidents. Self-driving software never gets distracted, never gets tired, and can react faster to sudden changes. Autonomous trucks driving the same carefully selected routes are expected to significantly reduce the rate of traffic accidents involving trucks.

Eco Friendly

Replacing diesel-powered trucks with electric autonomous trucks is expected to have a major positive impact on emissions and air quality. Currently, only around 4% of vehicles on the road are large trucks but they produce more than half of the fine particulate and nitrogen oxide emissions. Workers in the shipping industry, who are currently exposed to high levels of diesel fumes, will see the largest impact on their air quality.

Driver Satisfaction

Trucking companies have great difficulty in recruiting and retaining long-haul drivers. The job is tedious, has unpleasant working hours, and requires drivers to spend most of their time away from home. Most experts predict drivers will benefit from autonomous trucks. They will be able to turn the hated long-haul drives over to the software and instead focus on local driving, allowing them to maintain a regular working schedule with more home time.

Already on the Roads

Self-driving trucks are already on the roads. However, currently, they require a human driver to be in the driver’s seat in case of emergencies. In fact, California recently passed AB316, which requires all vehicles over 10,000 pounds to have a human operator, blocking the operation of fully autonomous trucks in that state.

Most self-driving trucks are confined to the southwestern US, but shipping companies are planning to expand beyond this area in the near future. Many experts predict that fully autonomous trucks driving on highways from hub to hub will be a reality by the early 2030s.

Future concerns

The question has become more of when, not if, autonomous trucks will replace most of the manned trucks on the highways. Self-driving systems keep improving and as they do so, the regulatory landscape will become increasingly friendly to autonomous vehicles.

Many shipping companies have already or are planning to invest in electric refueling systems at their hubs in preparation for the switch to battery-powered trucks. In the near future driverless trucks will be proceeding efficiently down the highways, carrying essential freight to where it needs to go.

Daniel Robert
Daniel Robert
Daniel Robert is a multi-talented author at thetechdiary.com, particularly interested in business, marketing, gaming, entertainment, technology and more. His diverse background and love for learning have allowed him to write on various topics. With a unique ability to craft engaging and informative content, Daniel has become a well-respected voice in online publishing.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Most Popular