California supply chain needs self-driving trucks to get started

The supply chain crisis is part of everyday life for California consumers and businesses. In the Bay Area, prices are up 1.5% this spring and 5% over the past year. Customers know to expect a long time to buy and restaurants are reworking menus to accommodate rising food prices (up 10% from last year). With diesel averaging $6.51 per gallon, fuel costs are passed on to the consumer in the form of premiums and higher prices.

There are many reasons for the current inflation and supply chain dilemmas, but one stands out: the number of truckers cannot keep up with the demand. And we expect it to get even worse. As Governor Gavin Newsom and California lawmakers consider every opportunity to maintain the supply chain and drive down prices, it’s time for the Golden State to support self-driving trucks as a mid-term solution to a long-term problem. . First and foremost, the Newsom administration should initiate the development of Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) rules to allow self-driving trucks to test and deploy.

The shortage of truck drivers was a problem long before the pandemic. The American Trucking Association estimates that the country is short of 80,000 drivers, and that shortage is expected to double to 160,000 by 2030. The industry also faces extremely high turnover rates. For new entrants and those considering retirement, the burden of long, stressful hours away from family outweighs the lure of well-paying, long-distance work. Truckers face higher than average rates of obesity, smoking, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Self-driving trucks are poised to be active partners with drivers, meeting the need for long-haul drivers while promoting short-haul jobs that alleviate the heavy physical and mental burdens of long-haul driving. A new study has found that self-driving trucks can contribute at least $6.5 billion to California’s economy, while creating an estimated 2,400 jobs, boosting production without requiring mass layoffs of the state’s truck drivers. Many companies are already based in the Golden State. California talent is building the innovations of the future while supporting their local economies in regions such as the Bay Area, Los Angeles and San Diego.

Self-driving trucking has already created thousands of well-paying jobs in neighboring states — vehicle drivers, maintenance workers, technicians, engineers, and more. – and the growth of the sector will require more hiring. The successful partnership between self-driving and human-driving trucks has been confirmed by a Department of Transportation study predicting that the technology will create up to 35,100 jobs a year, raise wages for all workers and spur $111 billion in investment .

This technology also has a range of environmental benefits. Self-driving trucks can stay away from crowded urban areas during rush hour and reduce congestion because they are not limited to a human driver’s schedule. With optimized driving, they can reduce fuel consumption by at least 10%. By never getting distracted or needing to stop to rest, self-driving trucks can cut down on days of long-haul trips across the country. Removing these industry limitations can keep supply chains running at peak efficiency, which means on-time deliveries for groceries, off-the-shelf merchandise, essential medical supplies, and more satisfied customers. throughout the state.

Unfortunately, until regulations are enacted in California, none of these benefits or efficiencies can happen. In 2012, the legislature ordered the California DMV to create rules for self-driving vehicles. Yet a decade later, self-driving trucks are still explicitly banned from testing in the state. The Newsom administration should act now to begin rule-making and pass regulations allowing the testing and deployment of self-driving trucks.

Truckers work hard, but the shortage is simply unsustainable. Already frustrated by rising prices and product shortages, California cannot afford to rely solely on short-term stopgap measures to bolster its long-term supply chain. The Golden State needs to move forward with self-driving trucks so goods can keep moving.

Peter Leroe-Muñoz is the general counsel of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and senior vice president of technology and innovation. Ariel Wolf is an attorney for the California Alliance for Freight Innovation.

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