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When Life Is A Highway

What drivers want and how companies are complying
Driver Hwy_MS

Plotsky calls them a foolish idea that offers “too much risk for the reward,” and doubts if a 40-ton truck can ever be programmed well enough to recognize all the dangerous obstacles of the road.

McKenzie is less dubious, but says that while driverless trucks may be the future, the industry is at least a decade away from seeing them become a reality. Adding in the role of the government in regulating driverless vehicles and legislating to ensure safety and efficiency, and it could be substantially longer.

“There are many Society of Automotive Engineers ‘Level 4’ vehicles being developed, and while they’re able to navigate highways without disruption, they cannot contend with traffic jams, merging, or city driving,” McKenzie contends. “These vehicles still need a person in the cab to handle anything out of the ordinary, and driving 4,000 miles can be anything but ordinary—just ask the drivers.”

One of those drivers, Christenson, puts it succinctly: “When I see [a driverless truck] back into a dock, I’ll believe it will work.”

Driving Into The Future
The U.S. trucking industry is responsible for $603 billion a year in freight carriage, a number that represents more than 80 percent of all freight revenue over air, rail, and water. It’s clearly not going away anytime soon.

But it’s equally clear the industry is in flux, and continual effort to adapt to changing conditions and fulfill the needs of a new generation of drivers is necessary to remain a vital part of the economy. Drivers and companies alike agree that good pay, mutual respect, and professionalism on both sides is the key to making this happen.

“We’re always looking to onboard new drivers and we know it’s costly for them to run their trucks, so we pay quicker than the industry average and maintain stellar credit ratings so we stay attractive to potential drivers who look us up,” says McKenzie. “In the trucking business, reputation is everything.”

Image: Krivosheev Vitaly/


Leonard Pierce is a freelancer with more than twenty years of experience in the food industry.