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Knights In White Satin, Or, Where Did All These Drivers Come From?

By Art van Bodegraven | 09/03/2017 | 11:45 AM

Please enjoy the thoughts and musings of our friend, supporter, and long-time contributor Art van Bodegraven Jr., who passed away on June 18, 2017. Art was a prolific writer and had amassed a collection of unpublished blog posts he had planned to run well into the future. To honor his memory, we will continue to post these remaining blogs as he had intended. If you’ve been a fan of The Art of Art blog, check out our tribute.


We spend entirely too much time wringing our hands over the cataclysmic driver shortage, which affects OTR, LTL, parcel delivery, and other drivers.  Many long-time observers run a gamut from apoplectic to apocalyptic, depending on day of the week or the side effects of a surplus of burritos.

Maybe, just maybe, we are, and have been watching the wrong ball.  Maybe driver retention will only make a tough situation worse, down the road.  Maybe ceding loads to rail carriers is not the long-term solution.  And, maybe the pursuit and promotion of intermodal solutions is not where we should be looking.

Hey, immense and powerful forces are now at work, and will only increase, as time and technology flower more fully.  They are, in sum, of profound impact on the underlying need for people who can drive trucks.

First, the intermodal trend is not likely to fade quietly away in the near future.  Second, a host of technology-driven tactics and techniques are being employed to make truck movement both more effective and less-driver-intense, including autonomous vehicles, trailer "trains", and other groupings of capacity - all reducing the need for traditional drivers.

High-tech autos, whether Teslas, Google cars, or Fords, will be more capable of safely and effectively sharing highways with trucks, as they extend today's technology into a more fully-featured solution and capability set.

Uber and Lyfft may provide driverless rides, reducing the manufacturing capacity needs in the auto industry.  But, they will likely be able to deliver parcels as well as people as they mature.

And, drones will have a staggering impact, once regulators are more satisfied, on alternative delivery mechanisms.

It's possible, btw, that the OTR driver will become a relic of ancient times, with local drivers needed only to get trailers to end-destinations.

However the scenarios play out, we are looking at another traditional source of well-paying employment drying up.  The seismic shift in job content and required skills training is frightening to contemplate when added to other new-technology-related losses of jobs that used to be.



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About Art van Bodegraven

Art van Bodegraven

Art van Bodegraven (1939 - 2017) was Managing Principal of the van Bodegraven Associates consultancy and Founding Principal of Discovery Executive Services, which develops and delivers supply chain educational programs. He was formerly Chair of the Supply Chain Group AG, Partner at The Progress Group LLC, Development Executive at CSCMP, Practice Leader with S4 Consulting, and a Managing Director in Coopers & Lybrand's consulting practice. Concentrating in supply chain management and logistics for over 20 years in his 50+ year business career, he has led ground-breaking strategic, operational, and educational projects for leading US and global clients. Art was principal co-author of DC Velocity's Basic Training monthly column for a decade, and was the principal co-author, with Ken Ackerman, of Fundamentals of Supply Chain Management, the definitive primer in the field. His popular blog, The Art of Art, has been a staple of DC Velocity's web site since its inception.


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