CBS 60 Minutes segment on driverless automated trucking

A look at a topic that has had some interesting discussions here in the forum.

Whether or not these autonomous trucks are “safe” compared to regular trucks driven by a human driver is only one part of the equation. They may very well be as safe, or safer. The problem, which politicians fail to understand until it’s too late is that when an entire class of jobs which once supported families, patronized local businesses, and paid taxes is allowed to disappear, everyone suffers.

These self-driving trucks aren’t going to pay taxes, raise families, support local businesses, purchase or rent homes, etc. The corporate profits from destroying the livelihood of millions of professional truck drivers will most likely be invested overseas to avoid paying U.S. taxes on the windfall, and certainly aren’t going to trickle down to affected communities. Eventually, even state and local governments will suffer as a result.


I was proud of being a trucker and a Teamster, but the glory days of trucking were from, the 50s into the 80s.Deregulation, starting in the 80s killed 39 of the 40 companies I worked for, Why so many companies, the way most union drivers got hired by class 1 common carriers was to work out of the union hiring hall. Companies called the hall when they needed extra help and driers called the hall looking for work. If you and the company liked each other, the company put you on their own casual list. The local contract in Buffalo used to let the company use you 30 days in city work or dock work without hiring you, your 31 day was your hiring and seniority date. On the road, it was 2000 miles. When I quit my first union job after 4 1/2 years I worked out of the hall for months before I found a company I wanted to work for. One company, the first day I worked for them told me to call them tomorrow morning before I called the hall. I said ,no thanks, I called you enough things today.

WE did not save the jobs of the buggy whip makers and we are not going to save the jobs of the truckers. Not all of the jobs will disappear, they will still need city drivers and loads thet need a driver to unload will stay. I don’t know if the autonomous trucks will ever be able to handle snow and ice. Half the big rig drivers in the country can’t do it now. Perhaps the self driving truck will have to be parked until the storm is over like a lot of owner operators do now. When I was a freight hauler, we were allowed to park the rig in bad weather, as long as we had the badge number and name of the cop that told you the road was closed.

These days, there has to be an electronic transponder on top of the truck and it keeps your log book telling your boss and the feds where you are and when you are there, what speed you are going and where and how long you stopped. Who wants a job like that?


I have very mixed feelings on this issue. My father was a truck driver for most of his life.

On the one hand, using automated trucking is a sign of progress. Business in America has a constant push to innovate and drive costs down. This is a natural thing in our country.

On the other hand, to BCohen’s point…there are all sort of costs and drawbacks to our country and society when humans are no longer behind the wheels, drawing a paycheck. Our Congress is supposed to be monitoring such changes and legislating appropriately. This is the balance the our country is supposed to have: the needs of business and the needs of the people/country are supposed to find a compromise.

Sadly, our Congress has become completely gridlocked and basically impotent. On many levels it’s a tragic embarrassment. In the meantime, though, business and technology keep changing, using old 19th or 20 century era laws to base their decisions on, and all of us get more uneasy every day about these changes and the effect on our lives.

Sorry to get political. But this story is just a symptom of a larger problem in America.


Technology has always destroyed some jobs but has always created more jobs than it destroyed.

There are no fireman shoveling coal on trains although the union kept them there for many years after converting to diesel. Any attempts of the government to legislate retention of jobs will result in failure for all involved. The British car industry is a great example of that.

Any legislation created to stop or slow the advance will have greater negative consequences than positIves, IMHO.


BTW, I think the short-haul drivers are not going away anytime soon. Short haul city-to-city deliveries and entry into the cities will be handled by human drivers for some time to come.

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Between the two of them, @bcohen2010 and @oldtimer-11 have the right read on it.

It’s coming, we can’t, and shouldn’t stop it, but it would probably be nice if we figured out what to do about all those unemployed truckers before they become unemployed truckers.

The difference between the buggy industry and the trucking industry is that when the car started to replace buggies, buggy makers could pivot and start building car bodies. The one declining industry was replaced by an industry that was expanding.

But that doesn’t happen with automation. When a factory fires 300 workers and replaces them with robots, there aren’t suddenly 300 jobs available in the robot industry, and even if there were the factory workers aren’t qualified to do them.

It’s going to be the same with the truckers. This technological revolution isn’t replacing one industry with another, it’s simply replacing humans with machines. The humans won’t have anywhere to jump to as they did when cars replaced horses.

And the truckers are just the canary in the coal mine - automation is replacing human jobs at an accelerating rate. Amazon has whole warehouses that are mostly full of robots. The fast food industry is moving quickly ahead with experiments to get rid of every worker in a restaurant and replace them with robots. Robots will stock, cook, prep, and deliver the food that a customer ordered via a computer screen.

And white-collar jobs aren’t safe either. Once AI becomes advanced enough, we won’t need lawyers or engineers. In fact, computers are already designing things - unless it’s really ancient, the chip in the PC you’re browsing Cartalk with was probably designed by a computer program. Robots have performed successful surgeries. AI has detected medical conditions that human doctors missed.

Automation is the tipping point at which technology destroys more jobs than it creates. We are heading toward a future in which there will be massive unemployment because no one is going to hire a human to do a job that a machine can do. I’m not suggesting that we legislate that away - @Mustangman is right - that would be stupid.

But we do need to figure out how the economy is going to work when the overwhelming majority of the country is out of work. Even though that might be a century away, it’s something we should be thinking about right now because if we wait until the last minute to address the problem, it will be solved in the usual way. That being, whoever owns the machines will be rich, and the rest of us will be on the street.


As an engineer who’s worked in the computer field for well over 40 years - I’ve seen exactly that. Jobs were eliminated, but other jobs in other sectors grew. More of a job shift.

With that said…autonomous driving if/when fully implemented will eliminate more jobs then all the tech replaced jobs in the past 50+ years. The list of jobs completely eliminated or drastically reduced could potentially be in the tens of millions.

The question is do we want the government regulating it. That’s going to cause even more problems.

As an engineer I get 4-5 emails or calls a week from recruiters. There’s a big push for C++ developers in Boston and Pittsburgh to work on the autonomous technology.

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A great example that has already happened is that of bookkeepers and accountants. Computers have reduced the need for those jobs to some data entry jobs and a comptroller.

Another is draftsmen. Most companies no longer have that job, it is rolled into the engineer’s function.

This is a problem chasing its tail, so to speak. When the minimum wage is increased it makes automation affordable for that position. So where do those unskilled workers go? Where did the manure shovelers go when cars replaced horses? They were ultimately absorbed but where, I don’t know.


That being, whoever owns the machines will be rich, and the rest of us will be on the street.

Mostly agree but if the rest of us are on the street who are the rich going to sell their product’s to?

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I have a lot of sympathy for truck drivers; or at least 99.99% of them. It’s a tough way to make a living and it takes a special makeup to be on the road all the time, missing family events, fighting delays, weather, dispatchers, dealing with people in cars who either insist on crowding the trucker off the road or hoping they get tagged so they can sue the trucking company’s insurance carrier.

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Easy. Look at any 3rd world country to get an idea of how it will shake out. Who are those rich people “selling their products” to? Certainly not the beggars grubbing about outside the gates of the mansions.

What I think people don’t realize is that money is at some point once we approach 100% automation, going to go away - at least in the way we approach it now. All money does is represent wealth. If 100 people have all the wealth, meaning all the robots, they don’t need to move money around in order to stay wealthy. They don’t need to buy anything because their machines will make/produce/harvest/etc whatever they need and want. They don’t need to sell anything either, because why would they need money? They’ve got something better - the devices that made money obsolete.

The only things of value that will even be tradeable will be things like art, antiques, live theatrical performances (no one wants to see Les Mis featuring C3PO and HAL-9000) (well OK, I do, but I’m weird), etc.

In short, the current wisdom of economics is going to be flipped on its head. If you want any shot at making any money in the full-AI future (assuming we don’t go into that future the right way, which we probably won’t), then getting a STEM degree is a bad move because the machines will be doing all of the STEM jobs. Get a liberal arts degree and hope someone becomes your patron. Or go into adult entertainment.

The AI revolution presents a great opportunity for humans to abandon the current system wherein we sell the majority of our waking adult able-bodied lives in order to afford a few hours of comfort and enjoyment per week and instead foster a system where the machines do all of the baseline work leaving us to pursue the activities we really want to pursue. It could be the dawning of a new age of labor-by-choice rather than labor-to-avoid-homelessness. But humans being what they are, it will more likely be the dawning of a new age of the few having everything while the many end up hoping for the luxury of government bloc housing and ration chits so they don’t have to become sex workers.


I would be fascinated to hear what all of the people who think “automation is progress and should not be stopped” believe should be done with the tens of millions to hundreds of millions of people who will see their jobs replaced by robots, websites, and kiosks in the not-too-distant future. Should these people be expected to live under a bridge and forage for food in the trash? Should they be processed into Soylent Green? Inquiring minds really want to know.

Seriously though, anyone who thinks the current paradigm shift is even remotely similar to past technological advancements needs to wake up…and fast. In the past, as technology improved, it is true that certain jobs–or even entire industries–were displaced, however displaced workers could find opportunity in other industries, and the total number of workers needed did not contract much, if at all. For example, the proverbial buggy whip manufacturer might have gone out of business, or perhaps retooled to make a different product when automobiles replaced horse-drawn carriages.

This trend of replacing human workers with robots, computer programs, and kiosks is going to drastically shrink the size of the workforce, and concentrate even more wealth in the hands of a very small elite class, while dragging 40% or more of the population into abject poverty. People who are short-sighted enough to think this is a good thing, because they will see their stock prices go up may learn the hard way that AI can even replace their job. The time to put the brakes on this (pun intended) is now, not when we have already become a third-world nation.


Yes, agree, but these were industries that no one thought would ever grow as they did. No one in 1910 could have predicted how many airplanes we’d build, how many cars we would build or the powerful computers in most of our pockets.

It took decades for the farm workers to migrate to the auto plants, airplane factories and into jobs that didn’t exist 5 years before. None of this happens overnight. Neither will there be a wholesale shift to 100% driver-less trucks in 2, 5 or even 10 years. We can’t foresee where all these folks will work but then the displaced farm workers couldn’t foresee where they’d work either.

Those that realize their industry is shrinking will change jobs. The average worker changes careers, not just jobs, 5-7 times in their life. That will likely speed up, but the key is change.

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Well be still my children. It’s true that automation can displace jobs and occupations as we have seen. The trend of course is away from jobs that require little skill or knowledge except brute muscle to those that are higher end. So training and education is important for the future. There has been a lot of automation in the last hundred years and we have seen a growth in jobs and income for those with skills, not the opposite. When airplanes and jets started carrying passengers, they displaced jobs on ships and buses. But pilots and the associated support staffs are better jobs.

So now we are after truckers. Beware the theory of the paradigm shift where innovation all of a sudden changes and eliminates the original issue. What that will be who knows, but businesses do not invest money in products that will not be useful and innovators generally do not create products that are not useful. If self-drivers will be useful, fine, go do something else.

We saw a paradigm shift with computers for communication and news. We are likely seeing a paradigm shift in vaccine production methods. For a while now urban planners have encouraged high rise living and mass transit as a way to eliminate nasty cars. Then along came the deadly virus, riots, and people working at home that is changing offices and where people want to live. A paradigm shift at work. Often you can’t see them coming as Buck Rogers couldn’t, but that’s why free markets are important because everyone makes decisions based on their own needs, wants and desires.

Then money is mostly an easy medium of exchange, whether it be paper, plastic, or electronic. It’s hard to trade bushels of corn for clothing, but cash makes it easier. Sure you can store value in assets like a boat, but again its hard to take a boat to the grocery store to trade for beef. It was done during the depression but we are better now.

Onward onward, have no fear. Stay flexible and don’t believe all the experts. The experts are being paid by someone. I seldom pay much attention to 60 Minutes anymore. As they say “useful idiots”.


This was the first time in years I happened to watch 60 minutes and only stayed on that channel long enough for this segment because it is a subject that has been discussed here in the forum.

I like to put current events and changes in historical perspective. It is informative not only to look at what happened historically but to note what were the responses and predictions during those eras for some context and to note any patterns of accurate and inaccurate predictions, responses, and outcomes. Specific situations, developments, and culture change but overall human nature remains fairly consistent overall.


This will be uncharted territory, though. We’ve never had a situation where non-humans rapidly become capable of doing nearly every job. It’s hard to switch to a different career when that different career is also being done by a robot.

I think the historical context that’s informative here is the computer revolution. Remember back when most people had never seen a computer? We were told that computers were coming, and they were going to let us have a 20 hour work week because they’d make us so productive.

Did that happen? No. Most of us are still working 40+ hours, producing more than ever before, often at reduced relative pay compared to what our 60’s/70’s counterparts were making. Why? Because the people who own those computers are greedy. They’re not interested in employees producing the same amount of work in less time, they’re interested in employees producing as much as possible in the same time so that larger and larger piles of cash flow into their pockets.

It’s gonna be the same with automation. Done right, no one would need a job because our robotic servants would do all the work for us, leaving us to our desired pursuits. Done the way we’re going to do it, no one will be able to get a job and all of the resources will be in the hands of the few who are fortunate enough to have gotten in on the machinery early on.

Human nature does indeed remain consistent. Those with plenty still want more, even if it comes at the expense of another human starving. And once the rest of us aren’t able to earn because the earning opportunities have all evaporated?

Well, those will be interesting times.


I’ve heard there is an old curse that says “may you live in interesting times.” :thinking:


The absolute best one I ever heard is " May you have 100 ships in the harbor, each one filled with gold, and may all that gold not be enough to pay your medical bills".

@old_mopar_guy. That’s about right these days.

I like the one “may the fleas of a thousand camels fill your tent.”

For cars, I suppose “may all your cars be full of rattles and engine sludge.”

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