Elon Musk’s announcement that a Tesla Semi will be arriving as early as September is the first step to what will eventually be a reinvention of an entire industry. We’ve discussed before what, exactly, that means, but given that the man in charge of the Tesla truck program is Jerome Guillen who has a history with Daimler (specifically Freightliner) and large Class 8 semi-trucks, it’s not hard to see where Tesla plans to go with this. That leaves only the question of how far, literally, they plan to take it. In tractor-trailer operations, there are two basic types of freight moving: short-haul and long-haul.
Currently, the trucking industry is seeing a lot of change, internally, as technology improves the way that freight hauling operates. The Internet and faster communications, for example, has begun to erode the traditional consignee-broker-hauler paradigm in which someone with goods to haul contacted a freight broker who then contracted a freight hauler to move the goods, skimming a percentage off the top for the connection. The middleman is often cut out in today’s trucking, with many trucking companies having load brokers on staff.
Electronics and global positioning have also changed how trucks operate, with computers more efficiently organizing load and truck movements to minimize empty movement. The USDOT says that about 29 percent of all truck movement is pulling an empty trailer to or from a freight drop-off point, costing about $30 billion annually. That number, while high, has been dropping for some time and drops exponentially as networks of computers get more efficient at organizing trucking and trucking companies consolidate into larger and larger fleets.
Technology comes to trucking.
Soon the roads will be filled with self driving big rigs with only a token human on board to troubleshoot if something goes awry, but even that job will be short lived as the technology continues to improve.
I believe many of us will live to see the day when trucks transport goods across the country, that are loaded and unloaded by autonomous forklifts, and then distributed to various markets by smaller self driving vehicles.
If the machines themselves became the consumers of the goods, man's usefulness in this enterprise would disappear altogether.
As somebody whose father was a truck driver, and who was forced to listen to truck driving songs like "Convoy," Eastbound and Down," and "On the Road Again," until my ears bled, I can barely wait.
Just another subset of jobs that Donald Trump can do nothing to save.