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You may have heard last year that so-called ‘driverless’ trucks were due to hit Britain’s roads in an experiment to test their long-term viability.  This experiment has so far been postponed to an unspecified date because none of the 6 major European haulage companies has yet signed up to trial them over here.

The idea behind convoys of driverless vehicles is a simple one. Because of their electronic sensors and smart technology, they can be set to drive as little as 4 metres behind one another. This creates a slipstream which reduces wind resistance and increases speed naturally, saving fuel on all the trucks following the leader. As well as saving fuel, this also saves emissions, and the smart braking means there’s no risk of the trucks running into one another as they drive.

Driverless lorries

In the UK, the concern is that our junctions are too close together for this sort of driving to work efficiently enough to make sense. As they approach junctions, the convoy of driverless HGVs separates to allow other cars to merge into or off the motorway, but with the frequency of junctions on the UK’s motorways, this would be a very frequent occurrence. Concerns that the UK won’t be a suitable place for these sorts of trucks because the junctions are too close together and large platoons need to split up at junctions to let other drivers through. This would mean splitting up frequently, and losing some of the benefits of this sort of travel such as reduced wind resistance from travelling close together.

However, just because we’re not seeing them on Britain’s roads yet, driverless trucks are still an emerging technology being used around the world. Uber, Google and Tesla have all developed their own self-driving HGVs, with the US state of Nevada introducing driverless trucks and a successful cross-European driverless convoy recently completing its mission. They’re labour-saving and time-saving, with no need to stop for drivers’ breaks at legally required points. This makes them a good bet for big business to save money and operate more efficiently.

But if you’re thinking this means drivers will no longer be needed, that’s where you’re wrong.  For a start, motorists are already concerned enough about driving alongside HGVs on major roads, and there are fears that the idea of a huge truck without a driver would be too much for the public to handle. And secondly – but most importantly – driverless trucks are only designed to be driverless when they’re on major roads like motorways and highways.

Because HGVs spent much of their time on largely straight and consistently moving roads, it’s this part of the drive that self-driving trucks will take over from human drivers. But as soon as the end of the motorway approaches, the HGVs hand over again to a real driver, who takes them the rest of the way through more minor roads.  On top of the remaining need for human drivers to handle the smaller roads, there also needs to be a person on board for the pick-up and / or delivery stage of the journey, in which human interaction still plays a huge part.

So as you can see, the HGV driver as a professional is going absolutely nowhere for the time being, with drivers even more needed now than ever, and an actual driver shortage on our hands. In fact, the only businesses really at risk from the rise of the ‘driverless’ HGV are truck stops, which will no longer legally be needed if drivers no longer need breaks in the middle of long manual drives. Bearing this in mind, training as an HGV driver will continue to be a fruitful thing to do, with jobs always available all over the UK and Europe. Start your training today for as little as £10 deposit contact us to find out more.

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