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Self-driving Transport Trucks: Pipe Dream or the Future?

Self-driving Transport Trucks: Pipe Dream or the Future?

If you live in some cities, you may already have taken a ride in a driverless Uber—a sign that automated transport without the need for a human driving is already happen. In the transport industry (we’re talking about cargo and freight, not passenger vehicles), there are still a number of obstacles, but the wheels are already in motion there, too.

In fact, there has already been a trial run that had a “driverless” transport truck hauled eight truckloads of freight more than 6,000 miles in the space of just five days. While this is much quicker than a human trucker could do it, there’s still a reason that “driverless” is in quotations in this example.

For one, there were human drivers used in the trial run for safety reasons, and according to an article in the New York Times, they have to take the wheel several times during the deliveries. And even then, regular haulers were used for the last stretch of each delivery since highways are easier for driverless transport trucks to navigate without incident (although clearly not entirely free of issues.) This raises some very interesting questions for the transport industry going forward.


Laws limit how long truck drivers can spend on the road, which would most likely apply to safety crews for automated transport as well. In the example mentioned above, several teams rotated through to do the job so that the truck could operate around the clock. One of the potential benefits of driverless transport is that could eliminate the need for human drivers, but that’s not an option as it currently stands. Especially when you consider that transporters already have issues filling their available jobs.

Given that recent world events have caused hiccups in the supply chain as a whole, another benefit would be that things could potentially run more smoothly with automated trucks. But again, there’s the issue of what to do with current drivers, while it does seem feasible that they could become part of the safety crews that would be needed. Even then, truck drivers are probably not keen on a technology that will ultimately plan on replacing them altogether.

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In answer to the question posed at the top of this article, the answer is that fully self-driving trucks in the transport industry are still a long way off. Even if drivers can be talked into a different job description that would maintain their employment, tons of truck drivers are still needed in at least the short-term future for the transport industry. Trying to combine the two into a workable system will no doubt be a massive challenge.

There will also need to be a tremendously expensive infrastructure built around driverless transport for it to become a legitimate option on a large scale. Not only will a cost a lot to get the trucks on the road and into the supply chain, but there are still hurdles that remain regarding things like weigh stations, unexpected accidents and malfunctions. Accidents, in particular, are a major concern, which is why the first attempt at using the trucks still involved human drivers and didn’t attempt to do much outside of highways. City driving is a much more difficult challenge to tackle for driverless technology, especially with the size and weight of a semi-truck and the narrower streets of cities.


While it is easy to imagine a future in which driverless transport trucks handle the bulk of the freight transport, there are significant safety concerns, as well as financial and logistical hurdles that need to be cleared. The trucking industry is heavily regulated in many ways too, so even if these issues are resolved, there would have to be new laws and regulations drawn up to ensure that it can be done safely, and at a cost which makes.

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Joe Webster began his journey in the auto transport field by attending the University of Southern California (USC), where he graduated with a Bachelor of Business Marketing. 

After college, he started his career in the auto transport industry from the bottom up and has done virtually every job there is to do at A-1 Auto Transport, including but not limited to: Truck Driver, Dispatch, Sales, PR, Bookkeeping, Transport Planner, Transport Manager, International Transport Manager, Brokering, Customer Service, and Marketing. Working with his mentor Tony Taylor, Joe Webster has learned the ins and outs of this industry which is largely misunderstood. 

With over 30 years experience in the industry, we've been helping people ship their vehicles, motorcycles, RV's, heavy equipment, household goods and more across the country or overseas without a hitch. Ask us anything.

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A-1 Auto Transport is a disclosed agent for the following shipping companies:

Trans Global Auto Logistics, Inc.
3401 E Randol Mill Rd
Arlington, TX 76011
NO. 018191NF
CFR Rinkens
15501 Texaco Avenue
Paramount, CA 90723
NO. 013055NF
ABC Worldwide LLC
2840 NW 2nd Ave #105
Boca Raton, FL 33431
NO. 025472F
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435 Division Street
Elizabeth, NJ 07201
FMC 22206
Intl Cargo
45 Campus Drive
Edison, NJ 08837
NO. 17858N
ShipYourCarNow LLC
1160 South Rogers Circle Suite 1
Boca Raton, FL 33487
NO. 025646
Merco Air & Ocean Cargo, Inc.
6 Fir Way
Cooper City, FL 33026
NO. 021869F
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