We all know that Netflix killed Blockbuster, that Amazon put most book stores out of business, and that Uber is cannibalizing the jobs of taxi drivers around the world.
But here’s a fact that doesn’t get talked about enough — this transition didn’t happen overnight!
The market gave off some very obvious signals about where things were headed, and what was to come.
It was like watching an MMA fighter tell his opponent, “hey, I’m about to throw a left hook!”
Now I don’t know about you, but if someone tells me they’re about to throw a punch in my direction, I’m going to duck, dip, dive or do whatever it takes to get the hell out of the way!
Sounds obvious, right?
Yeah, until you realize that thousands of people didn’t do a goddamn thing, and took one straight to the jaw!
Then they had the audacity to complain, bitch and moan. Unbelieveable!
Of course, you might say that all this metaphorical talk sounds smart now because hindsight is 20/20.
Fine, allow me to give you some foresight so you can avoid pain in the future: If you’re thinking about getting a truck driving job (or are currently a truck driver), you should know that the demand for your skills are about to become obsolete.
You’ll Soon Become The Typewriter In An Era Of Laptops
At best, I believe you can probably squeeze out another 5 years from your current gig.
At worst? Probably about 2-3.
How can I possibly know that the truck driving industry is on the down turn? Am I some new-age Nostradamus?
No, I’m just aware of what’s going on in the world of technology. In case you haven’t heard, a company called Otto (recently acquired by Uber) created a self-driving truck which made its first successful delivery of 50,000 cans of beer.
That’s right, a completely automated truck delivered the one item that pretty much everyone loves to drink.
If you don’t think this is: A) Fucking awesome, and B) Fucking scary for all truck drivers, then you’re not respecting the gravity of the situation.
According to alltrucking.com, there are about 3.5 million truck drivers in America. Each one of them should be worried, because once a proof of concept like this achieves such a milestone, it’s all hands on deck! There is a storm of self driving cars and trucks coming.
And you know what? There’s not a damn thing you can do to stop it!
For A Shipping Company, These Trucks Are A Dream Come True
Here are just a few of the advantages that automated trucks have over their human counterparts:
- No need to pay for an annual salary, insurance or benefits
- Machines don’t experience fatigue nor need vacations
- Machines are more fuel efficient
- Machines don’t make emotional decisions (e.g, they won’t get pissed off if a driver cuts them off, they’ll just react and keep going.)
- Machines don’t need washroom breaks, hence greater time efficiency
So how much does all that translate into real world savings?
Well Anheuser-Busch (a brewing company) reported that that it could save an estimated $50 million a year in the US alone by deploying autonomous trucks across its distribution network (Source: Bloomberg)
I don’t know about you, but if I was the shareholder of that company, then deploying automated trucks as soon as possible would be a total no-brainer.
So What Should Current Truck Drivers Do?
Well they can do what the like, but personally, I’d go on the offence. Remember the punching analogy I used above? Well it’s not enough just to get out of the way, you have to counter with your own right hook!
So below, I’ve laid out a simple game plan of what “I” would do if I was in a position where my truck driving job was on the line.
Join Their Inner Circle
First, I would build solid relationships with the top brass of the company I work at.
Why? So that I can stay “in the loop” of when they decide to test out self-driving trucks for their own use. Like any other technology, top level execs will want to “get their feet wet” before committing to a full transition to automated vehicles. I’d want to know when the feet-wetting would begin.
This “inner circle” info would also give me an idea of how soon I can expect to be out of a job, and I can plan accordingly. Also, being friendly with the bosses means they’ll most likely cut me last… if they decide to cut me at all.
When faced with firing an employee they like V.S firing an employee they don’t have any emotional attachment to, any exec will choose the latter option.
After all, they’re only human.
Keep Your Enemies Close
Next, I’d try to get myself involved with the self-driving project any way I could. If you can’t beat em, join em… right?
So I’d either become part of the self-driving crew at my current company or join a company like Otto so I can get to know these machines inside out. This would allow me to find out what their strengths are and more importantly, what are their weaknesses?
Upgrading Yourself Is Never A Bad Decision
Finally, I would invest in higher education for skills that are in-demand not just now, but will be in the future such as software development.
Assuming I’ve been driving trucks for years, I probably know the industry inside and out. This makes me a valuable resource as a consultant. So if I can combine my experience as a driver with my newfound knowledge of creating software, I can come up with much better driving algorithms than some nerd who’s never been inside a truck a day in his life.
Alternatively, if I was a complete idiot with technology and barely knew how to start a computer, then I’d devote my time to learning how to sell.
Think about it: A company like Otto will eventually need a sales force to go around and pitch their trucks for shipping companies to buy. As a driver with experience under my belt, I’d be the perfect salesman. Not only would the commission per-truck-sold be fucking huge, but if I could shift some real volume, I’d be set for life.
Stay A Step Ahead
Times are changing. Don’t be that person who thinks they’ll stay in business or have a job forever because that’s how shit used to be.
The market doesn’t give a damn about how things used to be — it just goes in the direction it goes. To me, the market resembles a vast ocean and we are all tiny little ships at the mercy of its waves and icebergs.
You can either go with the flow and get ahead, or try and go against it and join the likes of USS Blockbuster and HMS Boarders.
Who knows… maybe one day we’ll look back at your ancient ruins, which might be worth a lot of money.
The choice is yours.