Autonomous trucks: Benefits for the trucking industry


Worth $9.6 trillion in 2018, according to Armstrong & Associates, the global logistics market currently represents approximately 12% of the world’s GDP. The trucking industry currently accounts for 43% of total logistics costs globally, with a total value of $4.1 trillion, and is projected to reach a size of $5.5 trillion by 2027.

According to the ATRI, the US trucking industry’s operational costs have increased by 18% since 2010. In the US alone, the trucking industry employs 7.95 million people, more than 3.5 million of whom work as truck drivers, who hold more than 90% of truck-driving jobs.

In 2018, the trucking industry in the US was short of approximately 60,800 drivers, an increase of 20% from the previous year, according to a study by the American Trucking Association (ATA). This US driver shortage is forecasted to increase by 160,000 by 2028.

Operating a Class 8 truck is a complex task that requires significant skill. The sheer size and weight of these vehicles mean that the consequences of accidents are particularly severe, with high fatality rates, so drivers receive a lot of training. The financial costs related to truck crashes are also high. When they happen, fleet owners have to pay for vehicle repairs and loss of consignment, driver downtime, and depreciation in a vehicle’s value. As a result, trucks are increasingly equipped with new safety features and driver-alertness systems to further reduce the chance of a crash.

In the US in 2018, more than 150,000 people got injured in crashes involving large trucks, and 4,951 were killed, increasing since 2009. This rising trend can partly be attributed to the increasing vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in the US. Globally, the transportation sector also contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). In the US, the transportation sector produces approximately 27% of the nation’s GHGs. A rise in the number of vehicles and vehicle miles traveled (VMT) has resulted in its being responsible for 47% of the increase in all harmful emissions since 1990.

Although autonomous trucking still faces challenges on many fronts, such as technology, governance, and commercial return, many people think the industry will present the first viable business case for applying this emerging technology. It offers significant benefits to the environment and an enhanced quality of life for drivers. Using autonomous trucks could usher in a new era of quick, affordable, and convenient transportation, with effects, felt far beyond the trucking industry’s borders.

The trucking industry faces many issues that automation would help mitigate or eradicate. The increased efficiencies enabled by automation will have a range of impacts on the daily lives of consumers and drivers. The various benefits are grouped below.

Benefits of autonomous trucks


  • Reduced number of road accidents and fatalities
  • Prevent or minimize the severity of accidents


  • The time it takes to receive packages will be reduced
  • Prognostics and diagnostics help reduce vehicle downtime
  • Leverage the potential of network operations and accessibility

Comfort and convenience

  • Offers a user-centric approach to comfort
  • Driver-assisted technologies create a less stressful and less tiring work environment


  • In-vehicle infotainment and connected interactive systems
  • Enables non-driving activities such as office work, sleeping, and eating


  • Reduces fuel consumption and, therefore, emissions
  • Minimizes the carbon footprint of vehicle journeys
  • The state of the environment will improve as greenhouse gas emissions are reduced.

Maintenance and repair

  • Increased diagnostic data can enable preventative and more efficient maintenance
  • New revenue opportunities related to software handling

Fleet Logistics

  • Improved productivity, asset utilization, and profitability
  • Increased data for fleet performance analytics

Driver Benefits

  • Increased safety
  • More efficient use of operator hours
  • Optimized driver rest periods
  • Eliminating human error
  • Better vehicle utilization

Manufacturer opportunities

  • Increased revenue from service-based business models
  • In-depth insights into a customer’s vehicle use and lifestyle can expose new sales opportunities
  • Delivery costs will decrease.

Supplier opportunities

  • New market opportunities for software-based solutions
  • There will be more choice about which country to buy something from, given delivery cost will be a less important factor in calculating overall cost.

Autonomous trucks potentially offer significant freight transportation savings for the US economy. Trucks carry about three-quarters of US freight when measured by cargo weight or value. Driver compensation represents the largest or second-largest cost component for truck carriers, depending on the fuel price. Fuel and driver compensation each account for about one-third of total operating costs. A truck driver may not drive for more than 11 hours per day under federal regulations, so it is difficult for carriers to improve labor productivity except by using larger trucks. Also, because driver error is the overwhelming cause of vehicle accidents, automation that reduces accident rates could improve public safety.