The NPR claims the most common job in 29 of 50 US states is truck driving. This seems a bit overboard, and depends on how jobs are categorized, but here is the chart.
The above chart from NPR “Planet Money” report that says …
We used data from the Census Bureau, which has two catch-all categories: “managers not elsewhere classified” and “salespersons not elsewhere classified.” Because those categories are broad and vague to the point of meaninglessness, we excluded them from our map.
Self-Driving Trucks Will Hit Us Like Ton of Bricks
Please consider Self-Driving Trucks Are Going to Hit Us Like a Human-Driven Truck.
It should be clear at a glance just how dependent the American economy is on truck drivers. According to the American Trucker Association, there are 3.5 million professional truck drivers in the US, and an additional 5.2 million people employed within the truck-driving industry who don’t drive the trucks. That’s 8.7 million trucking-related jobs.
One further important detail to consider is that truck drivers are well-paid. They provide a middle class income of about $40,000 per year. That’s a higher income than just about half (46%) of all tax filers, including those of married households. They are also greatly comprised by those without college educations. Truck driving is just about the last job in the country to provide a solid middle class salary without requiring a post-secondary degree. Truckers are essentially the last remnant of an increasingly impoverished population once gainfully employed in manufacturing before those middle income jobs were mostly all shipped overseas.
Short-Term Job Outlook of the American Trucker
The trucking industry expects to see 21% more truck driving jobs by 2020. They also expect to see an increasing shortfall in drivers, with over 100,000 jobs open and unable to find drivers to fill them. Higher demand than supply of truckers also points to higher pay, so for at least the next five years, the future is looking great for truck drivers. The only thing that could put a damper on this would be if the demand for truck drivers were to say… drive off a sharp cliff.
That cliff is the self-driving truck. So when will the process end? When will self-driving cars conquer our roads?
According to Morgan Stanley, complete autonomous capability will be here by 2022, followed by massive market penetration by 2026 and the cars we know and love today then entirely extinct in another 20 years thereafter.
- Navigant Research: “By 2035, sales of autonomous vehicles will reach 95.4 million annually, representing 75% of all light-duty vehicle sales.”
- IHS Automotive: “There should be nearly 54 million self-driving cars in use globally by 2035.”
- ABI Research: “Half of new vehicles shipping in North America to have driverless, robotic capabilities by 2032.”
- Nissan: “In 2020 we’re talking more autonomous drive capability. It’s going to be an evolutionary process and 2020 will be the first year to truly see some of these capabilities start to be introduced in the vehicle.”
I think the the timeline is off a bit in two ways.
- Technology change and adoption are happening at a breath-taking pace. Penetration will happen faster than most of the estimates above suggest.
- Truck hauling jobs will vanish faster than inner-city truck driving jobs.
At $40,000 a year, the incentive to replace truck drivers with software is massive. And it will happen. Not only that, but insurance costs will drop. Most truck accidents are caused by user error: Driving too fast, driving while tired, driving intoxicated, etc.
Robots don’t drink, don’t get tired, won’t drive unsafe to get to a destination faster, etc. My initial vision is that drivers may still be needed for inner-city driving (at least initially), but most long-haul operations will quickly vanish as soon as licensing is complete in most of the states.
What About Taxis, Uber?
Taxi and limo driving jobs will also vanish.
Travis Kalanick, the CEO and founder of Uber, said at a conference last year that he’d replace human Uber drivers with a fleet of self-driving cars in a second. “You’re not just paying for the car — you’re paying for the other dude in the car,” he said. “When there’s no other dude in the car, the cost of taking an Uber anywhere becomes cheaper than owning a vehicle.” That, he said, will “bring the cost below the cost of ownership for everybody, and then car ownership goes away.”
People keep emailing me about insurance. Many believe the cost of insurance will skyrocket. I believe accident rates will plunge, and insurance costs with it.
So what happens to a lot of insurance salesmen? Claims investigators?
As for car ownership, those who live in cities and seldom leave their city will have a huge incentive to dump their car. That too is a massive disruption.
Think of the manufacturing jobs that will vanish. Then again, cars will be nearly entirely robot-made, so those jobs will have already vanished.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock