The Age of Automation

I have mixed feelings about automation. The word even appears in my job title from time to time. The myth about automation is that somehow doing so will allow us to have more time to do other things. I've encountered many scenarios where a consultant or subject matter expert is brought into a workplace situation to help a company build out its marketing automation, only to not retain that talent for the long term.

But, this post isn't about marketing automation or my aforementioned rant about companies that fail to use it to build 1-to-1 relationships with their customers. Instead, I'd like to point out the concerns addressing automation's impact on the US trucking industry.

According to the American Trucking Association, the industry employs more than 7 million truck drivers. The demand for truck-driven freight continues to increase, while truck driver wages remain stagnant.

Data from the NHTSA suggests that an increase in driving is due to low fuel prices and job growth. "People die when they drive drunk, distracted or drowsy, or if they are speeding or unbuckled," says NHTSA’s administrator Dr. Mark Rosekind. Time limit violations are the number one citation among commercial truck drivers in the US. 
In the Northwest region—Washington, Oregon, Montana, Idaho
crash fatalities were up 20% over 2014 
In the first 75 days of 2017, there were 136 crashes involving semi-trucks in Washington. --Trucking Watchdog, March 2017

Why automation will make the industry better

"94% of crashes can be tied to human choice or error." 
--Trucking Watchdog, Oct 2016

Improved safety. In 2014 in the US, there were 476,000 accidents involving large trucks and buses with 3,649 being fatal; and these numbers are trending up across all types of vehicles. A semi-autonomous commercial truck can maintain a safety buffer of 33 feet from the vehicle in front of it. Computer-assisted vehicles consider multiple data points (weather, traffic, external sensor data) at the same time without human emotion and delayed reaction times.

Lower fuel costs. Today fuel costs is one of the highest overhead costs that a trucking company has. Autonomous vehicles would be able to respond in time when they are drafting behind other autonomous vehicles. Autonomous drafting could potentially drive fuel savings by as much as 40%. This driving technique involves high risk when human drivers are involved due to the time it takes to brake, responding to road debris, or other road conditions.

User acceptance in related urban transportation systems. I'm talking about fully autonomous train systems, no driver required. No one seems to have taken notice of the shift from manual to semi-autonomous or fully autonomous trains in global marketplace. In 2016, there were 2,025 collisions with trains in the US, according to a report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) -- out of roughly 6.4 billion miles traveled by passengers. But, trains run largely on a closed rail system and trucks currently do not.
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