UK Trucking companies excited about the arrival of Autonomous Trucks
Autonomous trucks may have been dismissed as a pipe dream a few years ago, but now, the dream is getting closer to becoming a reality, with car manufacturing giant Volkswagen recently securing a deal with self-driving truck start-up TuSimple to start developing “Level 4” autonomous trucks.
Google’s Waymo has also started testing its self-driving trucks in the US, creating the competition needed to take autonomous driving technology into the mainstream.
The advancement of self-driving technology is creating a lot of excitement in the UK haulage industry, and understandably so. Autonomous trucks have the potential to completely transform how trucking companies do things by helping them save money, boosting efficiency, and providing new revenue streams.
Reduced wage bills
One of the biggest expenses for trucking companies in the UK is driver wages. According to the Freight Transport Association, the UK currently has a shortage of more than 59,000 truck drivers which is not only slowing down their operations but also forcing companies to pay drivers above the unskilled worker threshold. Since trucking companies will no longer need one driver per truck, they could save millions in driver wages by adding self-driving trucks to their fleets.
However, this doesn’t mean that they won’t need any drivers. Autonomous truck companies are working on systems that allow for autonomous driving on predictable roads such as the highways but require drivers to take over on roads where more complex manoeuvring is required, such as in cities.
With this system, trucking companies can reduce their wage bill since they won’t require as many drivers, and when they do, the drivers will cover shorter distances than they do now.
Although the number of serious road accidents involving trucks is falling, they are still a big menace on UK roads. Accidents involving large trucks can not only cause massive property damage but also have a higher chance of causing injuries and fatalities, leaving trucking companies with losses and court cases to deal with.
While autonomous trucks will not put an end to road accidents, experts believe that they can drastically reduce the number of accidents involving trucks. This is because the trucks will be controlled by powerful computers that constantly monitor various sensors and cameras to ensure that they never speed, always stay in the right lane, and follow traffic rules to the letter.
Autonomous trucks are also immune to the main cause of accidents in the UK: human error. They’ll never text and drive, drive drunk, weave in and out of traffic, get distracted, or fall asleep while driving.
Autonomous trucks will require a lot less downtime than human-driven trucks. First of all, since they don’t need to sleep, autonomous trucks will cover more distances in a shorter amount of time than any human driver could.
A report by PwC shows that self-driving trucks can be in use for 78 percent of the time, unlike human-driven trucks that can only be in use for 29 percent of the time. On top of that, self-driving trucks will not be affected by driver injuries, illnesses, or off days. What this means is more deliveries which could double or even triple the income that trucking companies currently get.
With autonomous trucks, maintenance will be easier and cheaper for trucking companies. For one, the trucks are designed to drive at maximum efficiency free from human errors like speeding, slamming the brakes too hard, or over-accelerating that could lead to faster wear and tear of different components.
The trucks will also have advanced sensors and technology to report abnormalities in performance and catch maintenance issues early when they are cheaper and easier to fix.
The autonomous truck takeover in the UK is no longer a question of if but when it will happen. It may take a few years of development and regulatory changes but once they get here, the UK trucking industry will never be the same again.