(Oct. 24, 2016) — Although it’s likely the job of the over-the-road truck driver may evolve somewhat, it will not be eliminated or disappear in the age of autonomous vehicle technology, Canadian Trucking Alliance President David Bradley wrote in a letter to federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau, who was reported as saying certain occupations – namely trucking – would disappear in the future as a result of automation.

While Morneau was apparently trying to reassure people whose jobs may be disrupted by technology that the government is looking at ways to support them, Bradley expressed concern about the impact the minister’s comments could have on the morale of current truck drivers and on the industry’s ability – at a time when it is facing a chronic, long-term driver shortage – to attract and retain new operators. The letter was also aimed at informing the minister about the truck driving profession and how it continues to evolve.

Although various forms of autonomous and semi-autonomous truck technology are already here – and bring potential benefits in terms of safety and fuel efficiency – to characterize these vehicles as driver-less is wrong, explains Bradley.

Bradley cited platooning as a prime example of automated technology currently in development for real world applications where the operator’s role remains critical – whether it’s taking the wheel when necessary, negotiating shipping docks and assisting in the loading/unloading of the freight.

And while this technology will continue to evolve in the future, Bradley reminds there is much work still to be done from a regulatory and operational perspective before they are in service in mainstream applications.

Driving has always only been a part of what truck drivers do,” say Bradley. “So, while the job of the over-the-road truck driver may evolve somewhat, it will not be eliminated or disappear.”

Furthermore, autonomous technology is not a potential solution to the driver shortage, as forecasts estimate there will be a capacity shortage of 48,000 truck drivers in Canada by 2024 and the gap between supply and demand for drivers is escalating more rapidly than industry analysts previously thought.

“Rather than disappearing, the number of truck driving jobs to fill in Canada is going to continue to increase. The industry’s number one priority is seeking to employ more drivers in the future, not less,” says Bradley. “Trucking can help in the pursuit of job creation.”