#Autonomous trucks will be a major game-changer for the trucking industry; cost savings projected to be huge

Fully or highly #automated trucks (AT) would slash trucking industry costs and produce a quantum jump in industry productivity.

The Conference Board of Canada in a report predicts road freight costs could be significantly reduced by autonomous vehicles while the efficiency of truck use could be greatly improved with the elimination of driver working time restrictions.

By far the biggest cost saving for trucking costs would flow from the removal of the driver, as salary costs, expenses, health care, and insurances would be removed or substantially reduced, says the report. Secondary cost reductions would result from improved fuel efficiency from the robot driver and reduced maintenance and repair requirements.

Double-digit savings

“Overall, we estimate that 40 per cent of #truck operational costs could be saved by automating the truck,” says the Conference Board. “In addition, it is possible that many truck operators will find that because the truck can work up to 20 hours a day, rather than being limited to 14 hours a day by a driver complying with working time regulations, an additional 43 per cent increase in vehicle efficiency can be achieved.”

Management consultant Oliver Wyman says in a report the elimination of #drivers’ mandatory rest periods alone could “reduce driver costs by up to two-thirds and increase equipment utilization by a third. Going driverless also could lead to a 70 percent drop in accident rates, meaning lower casualty claims and likely lower insurance rates. Equally, highway capacity could increase by 200 per cent or more, since driverless vehicles can operate with closer spacing and at more consistent speeds.”

Consultancy McKinsey & Company in September 2016 projected a “fully automated, driverless truck (Level 5 automation) could cost 35 percent less to operate, while the savings for a comparable light commercial vehicles could be 50 percent. As success in logistics ultimately depends on ever-lower total cost of ownership, fleet operators would have a compelling interest in leveraging the new technologies to reduce these costs.”

Autonomous trucks could be a momentous as Interstate system and de-regulation

trailer-155300_960_720-red truck
CC0 Public Domain

 

The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), in a research paper on the effects of autonomous vehicle technology on the trucking industry, noted that, “Autonomous truck technology is on a course that will fundamentally change the trucking industry. Shifts of this magnitude do not come often – and may prove to be as momentous as the building of the #Interstate System and #deregulation.”

ATRI says two critical positives of autonomous trucks would be #productivity and safety. With changes to the U.S. #Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, particularly though an adaptation of the hours-of-service for automated truck users, there would be the potential that individual over-the-road drivers would be able to “operate in what is essentially a team environment — the systems will operate the vehicle during interstate travel while the driver rests, and the driver will take over on secondary roadways. The elimination of human error-related crashes also has the potential to save the industry billions of dollars annually.”

Micro-economic view

At the micro-economic level, ATRI says autonomous trucks (particularly Level 4 and Level 5 automation vehicles — see June 12, 2017, blog post on autonomous vehicle definition) would have the potential to significantly change the operations of individual firms. This might include:

  • Increased productivity due to hours of service changes
    • Fewer drivers needed to move the same amount of freight
    • Fewer trucks needed to move the same amount of freight
  • Expanded driver responsibility
    • More dynamic route planning
    • Administrative tasks
    • Increased customer service responsibility through email and cell phone communications
  • Changes due to technology
    • Potential for increased equipment cost (especially for early adopters)
    • Changes in maintenance practices/skills
  • Decreased insurance costs with fewer at-fault crashes

If early adopters were able to gain a competitive advantage, ATRI says other companies would follow their lead.

How autonomous trucks can address key trucking industry issues

In summary, the ATRI table below identifies how autonomous trucks would benefit the industry’s productivity by addressing its top issues:

Top Issues Key Autonomous Truck Benefit
Hours-of-Service Allows for driver rest and productivity to occur simultaneously.
Compliance, Safety, Accountability Will decrease raw Safety Management Sytem scores, though percentile scoring would need to change.
 Driver Shortage Driving more attractive with higher productivity, less time away from home, and additional logistics tasks; fewer driver may be needed.
Driver Retention Companies with autonomous technology may attract and retain drivers.
Truck Parking If “productive rest” is taken in the cab during operations, less time will be required away from home at truck parking facilities and fewer facilities will be needed.
Electronic Logging Device Mandate Modifications will be necessary depending on level of autonomy.
Driver Health and Wellness Driver could be less sedentary; injuries could be reduced.
The Economy Carriers that use AT may see productivity and cost benefits.
Infrastructure/Congestion/ Funding Urban congestion could be mitigated through widespread use of autonomous vehicles (including cars).
Driver Distraction Drivers will not be distracted from driving if vehicle in autonomous mode.

 

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