Automation in trucking may start in yards

While many in the industry are still questioning whether or not automation will play a role in trucking in the years to come, some steps have already been taken to start automating processes in shipping yards. 

Outrider System, a company looking to pilot automation in yards, secured $53 million in funding to help launch a program centered around using automated trucks throughout distribution yards. 

The startup based in Colorado is looking to begin testing its self-driving vehicles at five yards throughout the United States.

Running off an integrated web-based interface, the system will allow customers to dispatch and operate vehicles in a yard. Additionally, by using sensor systems and a proprietary robotic system, the vehicles should be able to move carefully and connect to/disconnect from trailers. 

As a precursor to widespread automation, having autonomous vehicles functioning in yards seems like a natural test-case for proving how efficient the process can be.

Nevertheless, it’s yet to be seen how jobs would be affected by such a sudden switch within yards. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are currently over 45,000 Transportation and Material Moving Occupations—would these jobs all be completely secure?

There’s no way to truly know, especially as the concept and its implementation are still in its infancy. 

Automation in the trucking industry as a whole continues to be a touchy subject, however. There are still arguments going on concerning whether or not it’s even viable. Nevertheless, many experts believe that full-blown automation could hit the industry in a little over 10 years. 

Though it’s likely to happen in phases, which should allow governments and companies enough time to figure out how to responsibly integrate automation, some fear that job loss could become rampant. While some believe that job loss projections are heavily exaggerated, others have stated that job loss totals could be in the millions by the time that automation is fully underway. 

Even if job loss isn’t enormous, using self-driving trucks may also pose a financial problem to truckers, as they’ll be forced to compete with autonomous vehicles that do not require rest. It’s likely that pay in the industry will become less competitive among truckers, which in turn may force many to leave the industry. 

Of course, this is all still speculation, as there’s truly no way to forecast such a dramatic shift in the industry. For now, though, automation is still a long shot as the technology is far from being optimal for commercial use.

So, what do you think about using self-driving vehicles in shipping yards? Let us know in the comments or on social media!

To keep up with the latest industry news, subscribe to our monthly newsletter!