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The changes would likely eliminate some of the best-paid positions held by the more than 2 million heavy-duty truck drivers in the U.S., according to the analysis by Steve Viscelli, a sociologist who is a fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Robert A. Fox Leadership Program and a senior fellow at its Kleinman Center for Energy Policy.
Using autonomous vehicles for long-haul cargo runs, the most likely near-term scenario, would also spur increased demand for delivery and local trucking jobs, which tend to be lower-paid and often have poor working conditions, the report said.
Many experts believe the trucking industry is a significant market for autonomous-vehicle technology, in part because long-distance highway driving is less complicated than navigating city streets. Trucking companies are interested in the technology because it could help them address high driver turnover and safety regulations that limit truckers’ hours behind the wheel,
Viscelli, who worked as a truck driver for several months while researching his 2016 book, “The Big Rig: Trucking and the Decline of the American Dream,” interviewed computer scientists, startups, carriers, equipment manufacturers and other experts as he studied how self-driving technology might be used in the trucking industry. He calculated the likely job impacts based on industry-reported data on driver headcount and revenue for various trucking segments.
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