The International Transport Forum (ITF) and its three partner organisations have released a new report, which indicates that the transition to autonomous trucks could lead to job losses for the professional drivers, and urged governments to explore new ways to manage this process. 

ITF is an intergovernmental organisation that comprises 57 member countries.

The report was jointly prepared by the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA), the International Transport Workers Federation and the International Road Transport Union (IRU), the road transport’s industry’s global body. 

This project was led by the International Transport Forum, a French intergovernmental organisation that is associated with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The report suggested that the autonomous trucks have the potential to address the shortage of professional drivers, as well as reducing costs, emission levels and enhancing road safety. 

With the introduction of autonomous trucks, demand for professional drivers in the US and Europe is expected to fall by 50%-70% by 2030, with nearly 4.4 million of the projected 6.4 million professional trucking positions are predicted to be obsolete, according to one scenario.

Based on several scenarios for the large-scale introduction of automated road freight transport, the study makes recommendations to help governments manage potential disruption and ensure a just transition for affected drivers.

According to the report, the increase of driverless trucks would not only discourage newcomers into the trucking sector, but will also directly affect the jobs of approximately two million drivers in the US and Europe.

The report suggested four measures in order to help manage the transition to driverless road freight, which includes establishment of a new transition advisory board to advice on labour issues, and consideration of temporary permit system to manage the speed of adoption.

Two other recommendations include the creation of international standards, road rules and vehicle regulations for self-driving trucks, as well as a continuation of pilot projects with driverless trucks to test vehicles, network technology and communications protocols. 

"Driverless trucks could be a regular presence on many roads within the next ten years."

Recommendations made in the report were agreed jointly by organisations representing truck manufacturers, operators, and transport workers’ unions, under the guidance of an intergovernmental organisation.

International Transport Forum secretary-general José Viegas said: "Driverless trucks could be a regular presence on many roads within the next ten years. Self-driving trucks already operate in controlled environments like ports or mines.

"Trials on public roads are under way in many regions, including the United States and the European Union. Manufacturers are investing heavily in automation, and many governments are actively reviewing their regulations.

"Preparing now for potential negative social impact of job losses will mitigate the risks in case a rapid transition occurs.”

Image: ITF’s new report focuses on helping manage the transition to driverless trucks. Photo: courtesy of International Transport Forum.