New Freightliner Inspiration Could Change the Role of Truck Drivers

6/03/15

post-imageThe idea of a self-driving vehicle in and of itself is intriguing, but a self-driving truck is a completely different beast all together. The US has taken the lead in self-driving truck technology with the recent introduction of Daimler’s Freightliner Inspiration. It is now operating in Nevada and the state is allowing it to legally operate on public highways.

With the ability to maneuver alongside everyday traffic and route through typical obstacles, Freightliner engineers have the opportunity to further test on-the-road capabilities and correct operational imperfections in real time. Additionally, they will begin to validate the trucks’ viability in various road and weather conditions and the interaction and guidance needed from the driver.

As the trucking industry struggles to make headway with high driver turnover, increasing costs of accident claims, and evolving regulation, this self-driving truck adds a new piece to the puzzle giving the trucking industry something to think about. Will this new technology improve some of the struggles that fleet operators currently deal with or will it further complicate many of those issues? Additional challenges that are emerging include liability issues and how accidents will be handled.

A self-driving truck will most certainly transform the role of drivers, by altering safety training and driving requirements. Currently, drivers are trained to operate the vehicle, to actively manipulate the controls and deliberately maneuver to their destination. In this new configuration the driver will be more of a customer service representative and equipment monitor. The driver will act more like a captain of a ship overseeing a full operation, managing goods and building customer relationships at destination sites.

Driver requirements during the hiring process could also change as the skills necessary to pilot a self-driving truck will vary from the status quo. This could have a dramatic impact on current issues that plague the industry, like driver fatigue, health issues, finding qualified drivers and retaining them. Drivers may need less skill to operate the vehicle, but have to have a higher mastery of using technology.

It will take many more hours and years of testing, more state approvals and industry interaction to fully realize this self-driving truck, however, as technology continues to advance and the need to address safety and driver retention grows, the Inspiration may be one option to move the industry forward. HUB Transportation experts are already formulating programs to address new technologies and challenges with self-driving vehicles and can help you understand liability.

Driver safety and retention are key issues that HUB Transportation experts and risk managers are consistently working on with clients. These critical issues are what drive many of their efforts. They keep up-to-date on new regulatory guidance that affect your business and provide insight and training on how to keep in step with the industry. With new technology influencing the transportation industry it is critical to understand the impact it could have on your fleet operation.

Contact a HUB Transportation expert on how you can prepare for emerging transportation technologies.