A new report from the Brookings Institution indicates driving a truck requires so much skill that that truckers are less likely to lose jobs to automation than receptionists and office clerks.
The report from the Washington D.C.-based think tank indicates that it is going to be much tougher than some have anticipated to replace truck drivers with automated technology simply because of the complicated nature of trucking. The report points out what most people in the trucking industry have known all along — that there is much more to trucking than sitting behind a steering wheel. Truck drivers must also “inspect their freight loads, fix equipment, make deliveries, and perform other non-routinized tasks” — all jobs that would prove difficult to automate.
Researchers assigned a variety of occupations a “degree of automation” score based on how simple and repetitive their jobs are. On a scale of 0 — meaning not at all automated — to 100 — meaning completely automated, most American jobs sit at an automation score of 29.6. Here are where some highlighted jobs ranked on the scale:
- Receptionists — 47%
- Cashiers — 37%
- Office clerks — 32%
- Trucking support workers (non-driver positions like mechanics) — 25.5%
- Delivery drivers — 24%
- Heavy tractor trailer drivers — 22%
The Brookings Institute researchers also looked at how many tools it takes for a worker to complete his job as an indication of how complex that job really is. These tools could include computers, GPS devices, or utility knives. The average worker needs about 6 tools to complete his job. A truck driver, however, must use about 27 tools to complete his job. This means that trucking takes more skill and training than other occupations and would therefore be harder to automate, according to researchers. High tool use is also found among truck mechanics — 97 tools — and compliance officers — 108 tools.
The researchers also argue that the high level of regulation over all aspects of the trucking industry will make it difficult for automated truck makers to actually get driverless rigs on the road for practical applications.
The report admits that automation is likely to change trucking, but seems to indicate that truck drivers are simply not replaceable.