Ensuring you have the drivers and technicians you will need for tomorrow necessitates training for tomorrow’s technology … today!
There is no question that technology in every industry is transforming the way today’s workers do their jobs, and the trucking industry is no exception. According to Robert Braswell, TMC’s executive director, “Today’s technician is very different than 30 years ago. There’s more computer work than wrenches.”
Using VR and AR as technician recruitment tools
Last week, a couple of articles appeared in trade journals addressing the future of the trucking industry when it comes to a qualified workforce. Transport Topics ran an article discussing ways to attract younger technicians by using virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and video games. The shortage of qualified technicians was noted by Greg Roberts, director of maintenance administration at Hogan Truck Leasing, a NationaLease Member, who said, “We are short 76 technicians company-wide. That’s a problem.”
Although the article doesn’t say “problem solved,” it does focus on using these advanced technologies as recruitment and retention tools as well as training; a way of changing the view of a diesel technician’s job, from a “getting-hands-dirty” job to a more technically oriented job. Fleets are also using AR and VR technology as on-the-job training tools.
Training drivers for autonomous trucks
The other article that attracted my attention last week was one in FleetOwner, “Taking a college course for trucking job that doesn’t yet exist.” This addresses how drivers will handle autonomous trucks as they enter into the market. Whether you think the need for this training is in the near or far future, major truck manufacturers like Daimler and Volvo are taking it seriously. Daimler intends to invest more than $750 million into autonomous technology over the coming years, and Volvo is already using completely autonomous trucks in a very limited way in Norway. Both companies are focusing their use of autonomous trucks for platooning on highways. In these cases, each of the trucks in the platoon still has a driver for safety reasons and to take over when the trucks exit the highway.
The article showcases a new program at Pima County Community College in Tucson, AZ, which offers the first college-certified program in driving autonomous vehicles. If you wonder why a course like this is needed if vehicles are indeed “driverless,” think aviation. Planes aren’t “pilotless” even though most of the flight takes place on auto-pilot. The pilot files a flight plan into the flight management system and, after the plane has taken off, the system essentially takes over. But we still need that flight crew in the cockpit. So autonomous trucks, even though they might be able to be driverless, still will need a driver to take over in some cases, at least for the foreseeable future. Students at Pima County Community College who receive a certificate of training in this course “will receive priority hiring from TuSimple, an autonomous vehicle company that just completed a trial for the US Postal Service.”
I have often talked about the double crises of driver and technician shortages in our industry. As our existing workforce ages out of the market and if low unemployment continues, the problem is only going to get worse. What is heartening is that companies and educators are looking to the future and future technology to help, not only mitigate the problem of shortages, but to also develop employees who are well-trained in tomorrow’s technology. The reality is that the future is always closer than you might anticipate.
Read Jane’s IdeaXchange blog on how some tools can help fix the technician shortage.