- Daniel McCreary is a 47 year old truck driver living in Centerville, Maryland.
- He has been in the trucking business for decades, and he currently draws chicken feed at short distances throughout his working day – at. to 06 o'clock
- Automation and declining truck wages threaten US millions of trucks.
- Business Insider asked McCreary what he thinks about the current state of trucking and where he sees his livelihood going for the next few decades.
- Visit the Business Insiders homepage for more stories.
Rachel Premack: So first and foremost, I think, what do you think about self-driving trucks and what kind of impact do you think they will have about your career, if any? Dan McCreary: I'm 47. I think so ̵
For example, I supply chicken feed and it is a custom mill. We have to load it. It takes 10 minutes to load, 15 minutes to get to where we are going, and makes it a 15-minute delivery and come back and do it eight or nine times a shift.
I think it's going to be very difficult to automate. I do not know. I think it's kind of like a snowball. When they get a problem and fix it, they will be able to make the next two easier.
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I know we need to be ready for change and just Understand that it may be a day when it suddenly affects you out of the blue. And I think it will be like that. I think a lot of people are going to work on it, work on it, work on it. And then suddenly either a regulatory barrier will fall or a technological barrier.
A truck driver admits that self-driving trucks have advantages over a human driver – but there will still be a need for a person in many cases
RP: Obviously there are safety issues with self-driving trucks, and Occupational implications would be challenging for truckers. But what are some of the good parts of self-driving trucks?
McCreary: The simple thing for self-driving vehicles, if anything can be considered simple, is that when a particular company's program learns something, all vehicles know that unlike a truck, every new driver must be trained from scratch. So you bring a new truck online, and the program is uploaded just as the computer driver has already uploaded.
I think we could have done a lot of this safely. Tesla said their cars were already safer than human drivers, and I don't think that's a very outrageous claim. Just because people probably put it on Autopilot when they do the easy part, but when you walk on the ramp and cycle miles until you get to the next town and then you take it off Autopilot when you get off.
Are you familiar with trucking in New York? They triple up there. RP: No, I'm not too familiar with that … I've done some trips in New York for last mile deliveries, but not with any trucking company in itself. I did a tour with UPS and Coca Cola. I imagine other companies are doing it a little differently. McCreary: The last mile you made is probably the most complex things that will be most difficult to automate, but if you drive to New York's thruway, when you come in, there are a whole lot of trailers parked to the side. There is always a lot and there are a whole bunch of trailers. Well, in New York they let you drive three trailers that are hooked on the New York tour system.
So they bring trailers a fall a lot. Then the drivers come up.
You get a whole bunch of single drivers taking trailers in and dropping them off and then a guy comes in and he drives all the long miles, dropping it on the drop lot, and then the other guys come in and, again, do the last mile.
RP: So is it platooning where you see self-propelled trucks start?
McCreary: I could see something like this work initially and pretty soon because it's the least complex. You have less interactions with traffic coming over, everything goes in the direction and generally about the speed you go.
But there is so much complexity. You have a problem, you have to check your equipment, you have to pull the hood. There are many things that can be automated, check the oil, but actually go around, check the brake thickness and stuff, it's going to cost a lot and I don't think that would be where the first big return would be. I think they will still need trucks for those things.
It's a lot unknown. We've had planes that literally could – a pilot could take them to the end of the runway and leave the autopilot on the take-off roll for the full flight to the landing and to it driving off the end of the runway. We have had that since I was in the military in 1991 when I started. It was in its infancy. It was early GPS and stuff, but they still have a pilot there because the most complex situations that happen rarely require a preliminary.
"I think it is possible that some jobs will be displaced and fairly quickly."
RP: So, when do you think automation will hit the truck?
McCreary: This happens in such large chunks. The snowball rolls and rolls and rolls, and suddenly it's huge, and we go from horses and buggies to cars in, what, 10 years or 15 years. There is some precedent for how these things will work because certain technologies have really boosted the industry over the years.
Look at the industrial revolution. Look at the transition to cars in the early 1900s. The aviation industry, from not being able to fly to flying commercially within, what, 15 or 20 years.
And the people who were most affected by it simply had to find a new career. No one made horse whips or buggy wheels. I do not know.
McCreary: Every month we hear a new thing. We have our self-driving vehicle that went 100 miles, and it did this or did it. I think we have crossed some initial barrier.
Read more: Autonomous trucks are now moving UPS loads – and it shows that driverless trucks can be a couple of years away from disrupting the $ 800 billion trucking industry
I think there's a lot left to resolve before we see a truck that can take off from Walmart's distribution center, drive through city streets, get on the freeway, go where it is supposed to and drop off at the next distribution center. But I think there will still be many trucking jobs for a long time. I think it is possible that some jobs will be displaced and fairly quickly. It's such a complex thing. The environment is so complex. If we started a new system of vehicles that can talk to each other and every vehicle on the road could communicate with each other, you would have a much easier setup because you can increase the speed and decrease the speed to ensure there is no backup of the traffic or You can actually cross intersections without stopping at traffic lights and such.
But we are in the shoes of these things for a system of millions and millions of cars and trucks in all states of repair and service.
Self-propelled trucks have been proposed as a solution to the lack of truck drivers – but not all trucks agree that there is even a lack  RP: We have heard a lot about the truck driver shortage. The American Trucking Association estimates a shortage of 160,000 truck drivers by 2028 if current trends continue. So wouldn't self-driving trucks be good in the event of this shortcoming?
McCreary: It seems they are more willing to spend money on equipment than they are on people. So it can relieve some of the perceived crunch.
I'm a little excited about the technology. I'm kind of excited to see what happens. I think things will change. It will be interesting to see. The driver's salary has really lagged behind. There are many trucking companies who scream about a shortage of trucks.
Read more: The federal government just confirmed what the US's 1.8 million truck drivers have said for years: Truck driver shortage does not exist
If you look at the 1980s, paying the driver in today's dollar would be well over 100,000 and that is just not a normal number today. There is already a shortage of drivers, which may be kind of self-inflicted. If you look at companies like UPS or some of the Coca-Cola distributors, some of them pay very well. If you look at those who pay very well, they really have no trouble getting or retaining drivers.
Read more: Walmart's company car drivers are among the best-treated in the industry – and they will receive salary increases next month
it's not that I'm afraid of it. I just think that if you do not acknowledge the reality of change and where you are about to change, you are likely to be one of those who remain.
The truck industry has not, unless you have been a union driver, wanted to place you in a really good place for retirement.
And then I had a child who had a back surgery, and we lost another one.
I have used the whole pension so I could work until I am 70 or 75 years old and this can really affect me in a big way. That's something I need to read about. I have to be on top of it and you have to be ready for it or you stick your head in the sand, I guess that's what I'm saying.
It's fascinating to me. Maybe I should be scared. We've uploaded for … My mom, my wife, my grandmother, all of them are like, "If you are such a dog lover, you can be businessmen, you can do this, you can do it. And all you do is truck . "
And there is some truth to that. We may have to do something else at some point because some of our jobs are being replaced. I do not know. I know a lot. I guess what I don't know is how much I don't know about what they've achieved. And we're flying drones in combat now. There are many things we have really automated.
It's a reality you can't ignore and it may be that the world's Elon muscles are very optimistic and they have some breakthroughs sometimes that are very fast, but I think it's like the musician who practices 30 years and all of a sudden they're like, "Oh, he's an overnight success. He came nowhere."