Note: The real message, if any, here has less to do with truck driving than respect for and the value of human work. We are headed into a brave new world of sorts, way beyond the industrial revolution, in which we are so clever we can put all of ourselves out of a job. And then what?
Using a quote by itself can be misleading due to overall context of what someone said or wrote — I covered that in a recent post concerning something about journalism, but the following was an insult to me:
“Long-haul truck driving is a great example, where there isn’t much judgment involved and it’s a fairly controlled environment,” Kaplan said.
I’m a long-haul truck driver. Well I hope that guy doesn’t get run over by a truck or that he himself does not cause a collision by doing that diagonal run-in-front-of-a-big-rig maneuver (so common now), almost under its bumper to make the interstate exit at the last minute (or maybe I don’t).
I’m not even going to bother checking back to see who this guy is — just some college professor.
Actually, looking at the context, he was suggesting that driving over interstates between towns might be work most susceptible to being replaced by autonomous (driverless) trucks. I think it was suggested in the article that what might happen is that human drivers might still navigate in towns and in and out of warehouses and such. He was just saying that what he considered relatively low-skilled jobs (thanks a lot) will be, or are the first replaced by the newest technology.
Well I have news for Mr. Professor, even though I think there is a problem or danger in it, so-called “artificial intelligence” is replacing a lot of what had thought to have been highly-cerebral jobs, requiring much education.
But back to that quote about long-haul trucking not requiring much judgment. On its face that is absurd. Actually, the reality is that judgment is the main thing required in trucking these days. Trucks used to be a lot harder to learn how to drive and just a lot harder to drive period. I got into it all after they had become much easier and they have become even easier since I entered 21 years ago.
But the rest of the story is that drivers must use judgment in so many things they do all day long — how to make schedules, which are erratic and change at a whim (most of it is not fixed-route driving), and how to make it fit into hours-of-service regulations and where to find a legal parking place before your legal hours run out and what to do when held at a place and your hours run out but you are not allowed to stay at the shipper or receiver (I just saw a sign the other day that said even if my hours of service were done I could not stay and would be charged with trespass), and how to drive through bad weather and decide when it is just too bad, and how to find places for which one is often given wrong directions to, and how to deal with motorists who constantly want to drive under your truck bumpers, and even how to deal with some other truck drivers who are not so careful as you are, and how to deal with unreasonable customers or shippers and receivers (fortunately not all are) who you don’t dare get on the bad side of and how to decide what to do about that warning light on the dash that might mean nothing or just that something needs looked at soon or that it means stop now or the engine will blow up (and the lights are not always specific on the problem), and if you do put yourself out of commission, what happens to the load and where will you sleep? And what if you weigh your truck down the road and you are overweight? Do you try to go back to the shipper and use up your limited time or do you hope you burn off enough fuel (which you have to make a calculation based on miles and fuel consumption) before you get to the state scale and risk getting a super-expensive citation that goes on your record? Yeah I’ve just touched on a few of the judgments long-haulers make every day, every hour.
Of course if the truck drives itself then no problem, except the driver then has no job and can’t contribute to the economy.
Now, Mr. Professor, I actually graduated from college myself. And although I would prefer a real human professor, there are robots programmed with artificial intelligence and there are such things as recordings of lectures that can be played on television and on the internet, greatly reducing the need for professors, and only having to be updated from time to time.
We can all be replaced.
Isn’t it wonderful? Look at all the free time we’ll have. I’m not sure who pays us then or how we will all figure out how to divvy up the finite resources of our good earth without the system in which we earn tokens by what we contribute (or in some families by what others have contributed).
But you can’t stop progress. I’m not sure why. I just know you can’t.
But just what is the meaning of life and what is the value of work? I think the value of work goes way beyond dollars and cents. And just how healthy are we going to be when none of us has to work?
So I did go back and find the article from which I lifted the quote that insulted my job (and it is an informative one, I must admit):