Jobs and Automated Freight Transportation: How Automation Affects the Freight Industry and What to Do About It

The expansion of automation in the U.S. economy is increasingly tangible and will presumably entail positive and negative impacts that are not yet well understood. In the freight sector, there is uncertainty about how and when automation will impact labor. Beyond this, there are further unknowns about what the impacts will be on such freight subsectors as warehousing, long- and short-haul. It is expected that penetration rates of freight automation will vary across subsectors. In some subsectors, new jobs will be created and/or working conditions will improve. Other subsectors will see declining job quality and/or job losses that require workers to transition to new roles or sectors entirely, when possible. Changes in job opportunities and quality will vary within sectors and subsectors, by region, and/or by firm. This study offers an overview and recommendations in three directions. First, despite the uncertainties and based on past and present examples of automation, it provides some insights about strategies that may help impacted workers within and outside of the heavy freight sector transition. Second, it discusses examples of existing public policies that can support a transition for automation-impacted workers. And third, it provides insights on how different freight subsectors are likely to be impacted by automation.