Older Truck Drivers Unfit for Duty? Driverless Trucks to the Rescue?12 Nov

Problem: A serious problem plaguing the U.S. trucking industry is a severe driver shortage that is being countered by older drivers, who cannot afford to retire. Affecting us all is the increase in highway accidents caused by these older drivers.

According to CBS News, “Companies are aggressively recruiting retirees. Drivers more than 65 years old make up about 10 percent of commercial vehicle operators in the U.S. A five-month investigation by CBS News looks at how the increase in older drivers translates to potential danger on the nation’s highways…Individuals are working well past the retirement age of 65. But as the industry has changed, the rules of the roads have not kept up with the times — raising the question: Is more screening needed for commercial drivers?”

The Hill Law Firm noted, “A recent NHTSA data analysis by CBS News looked at truck crashes for the past three years in 12 states and found a 19 percent increase in accidents involving commercial truck and bus drivers who were more than 70 years of age. In all, between 2013-2015, more than 6,600 trucks involved drivers in that age range. (Note: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration [NHTSA])

Possible Solution: The accident problem caused by older truck drivers could be mitigated with the advent of self-driving trucks. This statement is quite plausible given the advantages cited for driverless cars. For example, “There’s potential in efficiency, in terms of better traffic flow, but also less fuel consumption…Because cars will be automated, there will be less chance of accidents caused by human error, leading to less traffic congestion.”

The headlines below show a distinct trend toward the deployment of this driverless truck technology innovation:

Opposition to Possible Solution:

There are at least 2 reasons why the commercialization of driverless trucks will be a protracted process:

  1. “There are more than 37,000 members of the American Trucking Associations (ATA) covering every type of motor carrier in the United States.” This group will undoubtedly seek to preserve truck driver jobs by influencing Congress.
  1. In the United States, there are approximately 2 million tractor-trailer units. They will be replaced slowly over many years as they age. Thus, replacement by driverless trucks will be slow on a national scale.

Note: “The mandatory retirement age of airline pilots is 65. The Fair Treatment for Experienced Pilots Act (Public Law 110-135) went into effect on December 13, 2007, raising the age to 65 from the previous 60.” A similar provision could be imposed upon truck drivers in the interest of public safety. 

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About Dr. Everson

Prior to forming this SBIR consultant practice, Dr. Jeffrey Everson was director of business development for QinetiQ North America’s Technology Solutions Group (previously Foster-Miller, Inc.).

Dr. Everson has won and been the principal investigator for several SBIR programs, including a Phase I program for NASA, a Phase I project for the U.S. Air Force, and Phase I and II contracts from the U.S. Department of Transportation. For the Phase II program, he received a Tibbetts Award for exemplifying the best in SBIR achievement.

Previously Dr. Everson held senior scientist positions at Battelle Memorial Institute, The Analytic Sciences Corporation (TASC), Honeywell Electro Optics Systems Division, and Itek Optical Systems Division.

He holds a PhD in physics from Boston College and a MS/BS in physics from Northeastern University.

Contact

For more information about how JHEverson Consulting can help your company with its SBIR and STTR proposals, please contact Jeff Everson.

JHEverson Consulting is based in the Boston area but consults for clients throughout North America. It also is supported by affiliated consultants.