Driverless Trucks and the Future of UK Haulage
The technology behind driverless vehicles seems pretty space-age, but how exactly will these advances affect the UK haulage industry?
As the economy continues to improve, many UK haulage companies are seeing a welcome spike in demand for work. More drivers are being sought in order to meet the demand, leading to robust skills development training being implemented for those handling heavy haulage.
The impending approach of driverless vehicles (which, until recently would have been laughed at), however, is something that everyone in the haulage industry needs to anticipate. These kinds of technological advances can't be ignored, but for those who are flexible enough to see their benefit and move forward with them, the future looks very bright indeed.
Driverless is Inevitable
Tech giant Google is predicting that driverless vehicles will be ready for use on public roads by 2020. They claim by 2023 these vehicles will be capable of reacting to varying weather conditions; in 2025 the first autonomous lorries will start to appear on the market; and in 2030, driverless lorries will become the norm.
What makes driverless vehicles potentially so alluring to large UK haulage companies is the amount of money that will be saved by making the switch from manned to unmanned haulage. Lorries will be able to operate for longer periods of time and would, theoretically, be less likely to get into road accidents.
Positive Changes for the Well Prepared
Autonomous lorries will offer advantages that many of the larger UK haulage companies will be unable to ignore. Assuming that driverless vehicles meet the goals that Google has projected, haulage companies that refuse to adopt driverless technologies may find their competitive edge being stripped away by others who do choose to utilise the technology.
It is the drivers themselves who will be most affected by such a move – but it only needs be negative if they are unprepared and, in fact, there is huge potential for those willing to embrace the changes. As mentioned, specialising is going to be the key, and drivers should be looking for future opportunities and establishing in those niche markets early.
As well as a host of new opportunities opening up in traditional transport, there will also be the need for trained 'operators' for these new driverless vehicles. Operators will be needed to monitor all on-board systems, ensuring that everything works smoothly and providing on-site repairs, should the need arise. When an autonomous system fails for one reason or another, the operator will need to take manual control of the vehicle and steer it to its intended destination.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Norman Dulwich is a Correspondent for Haulage Exchange, the leading online trade network for the road transport industry across the UK and Europe. It provides services for matching return loads and to buy and sell road transport and UK haulage work in the domestic and international markets. Over 4,000 transport exchange businesses are networked together through their website, trading courier jobs and capacity in a safe 'wholesale' environment.