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Vocational Rehabilitation (Continued)

Burdine & Brown March 18, 2020

I have issued a few recent blogs on the efforts of the Trump Administration to push large companies to provide vocational rehabilitation for young folks out of high school and to those who need to upgrade their skills when the manufacturing jobs return from overseas (especially from China).

Sunday night, March 15, 2020, an episode of 60 Minutes featured the driverless 18 wheeler tractor-trailer. There are thousands of truck drivers across the USA, union and non-union workers, who will stand a good chance to lose their job. So what are these folks going to do if replaced by a computer in the front seat of their big rig?

According to Wikipedia, a few years ago 90% of all long-distance freight trucking companies are owner-operators. Their average salary was about $50,000 per year. They have a high school education. They are my next-door neighbors, proud Americans, working full-time.: “If you bought it, a truck brought it.” Almost all retail, food, beverages, gas, garbage disposal, constructions materials, banks, aviation, automotive parts, and auto transportation, all are delivered by the 18 wheeler.

The advocates of the driver less trucks say that almost all trucking accidents are the result of human error (lack of sleep, judgement mistakes, alcohol consumption and speeding).

They argue that the goods will get there faster since the only stop is to refuel not to abide by Federal regulations that require limited driving without rest. This will make businesses more responsive to the needs of the consumer. They argue the computer can evaluate 200 changes to traffic each minute, far more than the driver could ever do.

I believe that when a driverless 18 wheeler trucking company puts one of their new trucks on the road, they should, as a licensing requirement, pay to the state government fund a sum of $30,000 per vehicle to re-train the displaced truck driver. A state fund could easily be created (please, not through the Federal Government) that would collect the money and when a displaced truck driver applies, he/she would be given this money or it will be given directly to a vocational technical school to pay for tuition and books to retrain a driver in a new field of work. Vocational counseling should also be a part of this payment because I believe a person who has been a truck driver for more than a few years will need counseling to determine best what their transferable skills are.

In 2018, 885 large truck drivers died while 4678 people died in collisions with large trucks. These numbers sound quite persuasive and sobering (no pun intended) to advocate for driverless 18 wheelers. But we have no idea what the numbers or accidents will look like as the drivers are replaced with computers. I thought I had enough things to worry about as I entered the Interstate Highway system in and around Atlanta, Georgia. Here is another big worry in my rearview mirror.