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It’s a little hard to understand why the “Freedom Convoy” truckers and their supporters blocked off, occupied, and terrorized Ottawa’s downtown core (as well as Detroit’s Ambassador bridge) last month. They came in a bit confused. They wanted vaccination mandates for cross-border truckers lifted in Canada even though the US still demanded they have their shots. They wanted change from levels of government that weren’t responsible: all health mandates are provincial, yet they demanded federal action. These ragtag desperados eventually accommodated every manner of conspiracy group and extremist philosophy into their fold. Their initially misguided but simply stated set of demands morphed into a poisonous brew of anarchy and overthrow. They finally met the end that many Canadians were relieved to see – a thorough scouring out of the streets by authorities resulting in tickets, fines, evictions, lost licenses, impounded equipment, and jail time.
The copy-cat protest of the “People’s Convoy” in Washington DC is similarly ill-conceived, and spectacularly ill-timed. The US had even fewer pandemic mandates in place than Canada to begin with. Yet these people are protesting their freedom to contract COVID – even as any minimal health measures are being phased out anyway. Their slow circling the Beltway to protest their “freedom” in an impotent rage seems terribly pointless. Arguably it’s the result of misplaced political anger but it’s also incredibly tone-deaf as the war in Ukraine reminds us what real freedom and tyranny are about.
Trucking’s vocal and erratic minority have just fast-tracked trucking automation.
The protestors didn’t accomplish their goals. In fact, they’ve done quite a bit to damage their profession. They’ve made it clear that the US and Canada’s supply chains can be easily disrupted by an unreliable workforce. They’ve created a climate where everyone is now concerned about how to make our supply chains more reliable and consistent.
The “freedom” truckers have made the strongest case I can think of for autonomous trucks. In a colossal self-own, the actions of the last month along with ongoing imitation protests around the world are having reverberating effects as the world will now move as quickly as possible to replace truckers with robots. How so?
- They gave self-driving truck startups a trailer-full of ammunition to use in their sales pitches and investor decks
- They gave federal, state, and provincial governments a huge incentive to speedily create self-driving-semi pilot programs, innovation centers, and trial roadways
- They created unassailable political fodder to legislatures to sweep through laws and regulations covering autonomous trucks
- They opened minds and are likely securing budgets for companies to adopt and embrace self-driving trucks – companies like GM, Ford, Amazon, WalMart, and hundreds more that are fully dependent on consistent and on-time delivery
- They gave people a memory of disrupted food, goods, and economy, allowing public resistance to automation to be more easily overcome
In short, these convoys have paved the way for all truckers to lose their jobs. Most people recognize that the protesting truckers were in the minority. They weren’t supported by national trucker organizations, and in Canada anyway most truckers already had both vaccination shots. However, trucking’s vocal and erratic minority have just fast-tracked trucking automation.
There are plenty of legal and logistical roadblocks to getting trucks automated. Before February 2022, I would have put odds that automated semis wouldn’t be on the road outside of pilot programs before 2035. The world will now be conspiring to reduce that timeframe as much as possible. We might even see automated trucks even as early as 2025. And we’ll all have the Freedom Convoy to thank for it.