Automation is set to hit the trucking industry in the coming years — but not in the way the media and naysayers have predicted. Human drivers will still be a necessity, as automation will only act as a glorified cruise control for clear stretches of highway. However, fears of automated trucks taking away trucking jobs have discouraged potential drivers from starting careers in transportation and the industry is desperate for new drivers.
Drivers and Automation
Trucking companies and the programmers involved in the development of automated trucks have declared that automation will not eliminate the need for truck drivers. Like planes with autopilots, automated systems can only handle the most basics of tasks like maintaining optimum speed and following a set route (keeping in lane). A driver still needs to make the actual decisions as well as take control when there are more variables than the automated system can handle (vehicles/obstacles on the road, less than optimum road condition).
The two biggest advantages of automated systems are its enhanced cruise control capabilities and diagnostic system. Enhanced cruise control features set speeds at the optimum speed-to-fuel ratio which reduces fuel consumption. An automated truck’s self-diagnosis system alerts the driver on parts that need maintenance or repair — allowing for smoother operations and shorter downtime. Automation will only increase the need for truckers — especially since trucks will be on the road for longer periods.
Bigger Demands — Bigger Pay
The trucking industry is in the midst of one of the biggest driver shortages in history — and it will only get worse in the next 10-15 years. Most truckers are over the age of 55 and the industry will be paralyzed once they retire. Trucking companies are desperate for new drivers — actively recruiting or turning to staffing companies to fill their ranks. Driver staffing companies are offering higher wages, better benefits, and bigger bonuses (including signing bonuses for new drivers and retention bonuses for old ones). Starting wages for rookie drivers have gone up to $50,000 — surpassing wages of most white-collar jobs. Within a year or two, wages can go up to the average of $80,000-$90,000 — and bonuses can push your earnings to over six figures.
Starting a Trucking Career
You’ll need a commercial driver’s license and a bit of training to start a career in trucking. You need to be over 21 to cross state lines and get the high-paying routes, but you can start early with local routes to pad your resume. Most trade schools will have trucking training courses — some of which will have sponsorship from trucking companies who will pay for your tuition and even give you an allowance while you train. Accepting the sponsorship will tie you to a company (and eliminate or reduce your signing bonus) so opting to pay for your training may be better. CDL training will cost $3,000-$7,000.
Trucking jobs have one of the highest wages for blue-collar work. With just your driving skills, a bit of training, and a consistently clean safety record, you can be earning a six-figure salary within 5 years.