Everyone seems certain that the future of trucking will be autonomous. Big trucking companies are betting that AI technology will be able to operate trucks more productively than ever before.

So, what does that mean for classic, human-operated fleets—will they become obsolete, or does the technology still have a long way to go?

Find out all that and more as we take a look at the difference between autonomous trucks and classic fleets.

Autonomous Fleet Productivity

Even if you’re not an expert in trucking technology, it’s easy to see why autonomous vehicles can be revolutionary. Trucks that drive themselves don’t need to sleep, eat, or take breaks—they can just keep going.

However, let’s crunch some numbers to drive the point home. It’s estimated a human driver can achieve somewhere around a maximum of 110,000 miles driven per year.

Of course, the driver is restricted by the 11-hour rule, and even then, not all 11 hours will be used for driving. Realistically, a human driver will achieve 80,000 miles or more at best.

With autonomous vehicles, the miles driven can skyrocket up to 200,000 or even 300,000 miles per year. That’s like getting the productivity of three human drivers in one year.

Autonomous trucks’ operating costs will be significantly cut with so many miles driven. Even variable costs like fuel will likely be lower since AI trucks will drive more efficiently.

When we consider everything, it seems like autonomous trucks will be incredibly profitable. That’s why huge fleets like J.B. Hunt, Penske, UPS, and others are heavily invested in self-driving technology.

Classic Fleets Might Feel the Squeeze

As we just described, autonomous fleets will most likely be much more productive than classic fleets. However, self-driving technology won’t come cheap.

It’s estimated that the technology will cost somewhere between $30,000 and $100,000. Some experts worry that the cost of self-driving trucks will drive out small and mid-sized fleets.

After all, these smaller fleets might not have the money to invest in the technology. That means we might be left with a consolidation of the trucking industry to just a handful of carriers.

It might boil down to those with the technology versus those without it. After all, the big carriers are the ones who have the money for the technology and are heavily invested in it.

The good news is that the self-driving truck takeover won’t happen overnight.

A Long Road Ahead

Although autonomous driving technology is making leaps and bounds, it’s still in its early stages. That means that classic fleets aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

In fact, autonomous trucks and classic fleets will likely share the highway for a long time. The most likely outcome is that autonomous trucks will be limited to specific routes or corridors.

Classic fleets may still be the most efficient and safe on certain routes. It’s also possible that as the years pass by, the technology will become cheaper and more accessible.

That might pave the way for small and mid-sized fleets to get self-driving technology and boost their productivity to levels never seen before.

Are Autonomous Trucks More Productive Than Classic Fleets? was last modified: by