I've been in Germany for a five days now, having been in a couple of meetings for projects that are investigating the future of professional driving. Our ambition for these projects (project-futuredrv.eu and project-steertocareer.eu if you're interested) is to inform policy makers, employers and others about the likely changes ahead in relation to vehicle autonomy and professional development. We envisage a role for drivers of the future, but in true Liam Neeson style 'they will need a very particular set of skills' that many drivers do not currently have.
However it struck me that our efforts here may be in vane, particularly where employers are concerned. So, why is it that our industry always seems to wait to be told how or what to do, rather than take the bull by the horns and tell legislators how it should be done?
I'll give you an example. In a world of robots, drones, complex supply chains, cloud-based efficiency and streamlined logistics why do companies still need to be told (through legislation) that they must provide drivers with training in certain topics (ala DriverCPC) to satisfy road safety? Surely this is something that transport companies should be telling policy makers? More to the point why don't they see the bigger picture when it comes to driver training? Yes, time off the road is costly. Yes, driver training sometimes appears a little tiresome. But why think like that?
The evolution of virtual reality and immersive training now provides a real opportunity, but it seems that transport operators will only embrace the experience if it offers 7 hours of CPC training. Why?
Innovators in academic and vocational training are driving this change, not the industry. Here we have a solution to engage drivers that's come about through modern technology rather than necessity, and if drivers receive a really engaging, interactive experience it stands to reason that the payback will be improved performance and more loyalty; crucial when we think about the driver shortage.
However, a potential roadblock standing in the way of progress is worker unions. In the UK we've already witnessed their impact through strike action in the rail sector. This was the inevitable redundancy of a job role through modern practices that were proven to maintain safety standards, yet the unions managed to stifle progress and cause a commuting nightmare for thousands of passengers over a 15 month period. So what will happen when the case for driverless trucks and buses is brought about? Rather than try to safeguard the past, the unions should be embracing the future.
It's clear that the future of road transport is set to be revolutised through technology, innovation and changing lifestyles, but our industry and our unions must be ready and willing to embrace change and not to simply dismiss it. I only hope that a traditionally reactive sector can start to become a progressive, proactive innovator, and that we're able to attract the best talent and showcase a future in road transport as an exciting world full of opportunity.
Don't miss the bus!