Although America and Britain may have a common language but are divided in the UK, they both face the same problem: a shortage of truck drivers and lorry drivers.
Supply chain disruptions, hoarding, and commerce caused a greater demand for freight carriers during the pandemic. According to the UK Road Haulage Association, there was a shortage in drivers of 100,000 due to Brexit and the pandemic. The American Trucking Association had estimated that the United States needed another 61,000 truckers before the pandemic. Bob Costello, a chief economist at ATA, told me that he thinks this number is much higher today.
Truckers can spend weeks or days away from their families.
As companies seek to hire more truck drivers, the pay of truckers is on the rise. As labor costs rise and inflation increases, and as consumers continue to indulge in e-commerce, technology is helping them with automated trucks.
Waymo and Aurora, as well as TuSimple plus, are testing autonomous trucks. Target, Walmart, and Amazon are also potential buyers.
While some believe that self-driving cars will soon be possible, driverless trucks are likely to arrive first. Trucks can travel on fixed routes on major highways and not through traffic jams. This is the advantage of autonomous technology in trucks over cars. It is much easier to drive miles on the road than it is to navigate in cities.
There are more cars in cities, with variable speeds and manual or electric bikes and scooters, pedestrians that can suddenly jump off the curb, and children who might run to fetch a ball or follow their pet. Regular cars and driverless vehicles find it difficult to drive.
Location was a venture-funded startup that was founded in 2018 by five robotics engineers at Carnegie Mellon. It is headquartered in Pittsburgh. Locomotion, which employs 62 people mainly in the engineering and trucking industries, has tripled its workforce over the past year. Locomotion engineers have worked on the latest Mars rovers and other vehicles for Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
Locomotion, a pioneering method of truck convoying, allows two trucks to follow each other closely on the road. The first truck has an active driver, while the second truck is autonomous.
Locomation’s truck technology uses radar and other sensors to maintain the correct distance. The connected vehicle technology allows the follower truck to brake simultaneously with the leader truck.
The driver of the autonomous truck assumes driving duties when the driver is a leading vehicle that has not gone for the time allowed by Transportation Department rules or wants a rest. The leader is replaced by the follower truck. The former leader then creates the next truck. The tired driver falls asleep, and the new driver takes control of the convoy.
This technology allows the trucks to travel for over 20 hours per day instead of 11 hours per day for one truck driver.
The convoy model is faster than waiting for fully autonomous trucks. Locomotion will have a car that follows the convoy without drivers and trucks that can move between docks and hubs without drivers in the future.
Locomotion intends to deploy at the end of 2022. It has received purchase orders from two companies that will be purchasing 2,120 systems for their trucks.
It is essential to clarify whether the autonomous following truck driver can be considered off duty. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration of the Department of Transportation can explain this.
Contrary to airlines, public transit, rail, and taxis, freight transport has seen a rise in the aftermath of the pandemic. People moved from cities to suburbs and started working at home. They also bought different goods online and increased their online order. This trend is not only in the United States but all over the globe. Let’s all hope that trucks and lorries, with and without drivers, will keep up with the increased demand.