KEY POINTS

  • The trucking industry is facing a series of challenges that are impacting current operations and casting a shadow over its future. These include high fuel costs, which make up either the first- or second-largest expense for truck operators; a driver shortage that's expected to only worsen in the future; and strict industry regulations that limit how much a driver can drive in a day.
  • Advanced and autonomous technology will enable operators and shipping firms to eradicate some of the challenges that have long plagued them. Innovative technologies will allow trucks to take over more and more driving responsibilities, saving time and money for operators and businesses that rely on shipping.
  • The impact of autonomous technologies on the trucking industry will come in three major waves:
    • In the first wave, companies will be able to put multiple trucks together in platoons, using sensors and vehicle-to-vehicle communication to allow trucks to drive in proximity to one another, leading to reduced fuel use and lowering the amount of effort needed from drivers.
    • In the second wave, fleet operators will start to use semi-autonomous advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) that will gradually but fundamentally change the role of the driver in trucking, prompting changes to regulation that will cut down delivery times and lower personnel costs.
    • In the third wave, companies will leverage fully autonomous trucks and start removing the driver from the truck altogether, allowing huge savings through drastically reduced personnel spending and radically transforming the logistics industry.
  • Change to the trucking industry will be gradual but inexorable. Companies with foresight can start to make long-term plans to account for the ways that autonomous technologies will change how goods and products move from place to place.

Introduction

Trucking is set to transform radically in the coming years. Innovative technologies will enable trucks to take over more and more driving responsibilities, saving time and money for operators and businesses that rely on shipping.

Like cars, autonomous trucks are being tested on roads around the world, and systems from startups like Peloton and Embark — which have raised tens of millions of dollars in the last year — could make their way into commercial trucks as soon as next year. Fleets will be able [...]