Here in the US, trucks carry 10 billion tons of freight each year. That’s 70 percent of all goods shipped across the country, according to the American Trucking Association. The trouble is: we don’t have enough drivers, and their numbers are dwindling. The American Trucking Association says the driver deficit currently stands at 48,000, and if trends continue, that could reach 175,000 by the year 2024. The average age for an American truck driver is 63, and that’s only going up. “Where is the next generation of truckers going to come from?” says Ryan Petersen, the CEO of Flexport, a company that helps businesses organize their shipping efforts through trucks as well as ships and trains.This is why Amazon is apparently trying to Uber-ize the way it coordinates truck shipments across the country’s largest online retail service, as The Wall Street Journal reported this week. Amazon declined to comment for this story. But citing sources familiar with Amazon’s business, The Journal says the company may be developing a mobile app for finding available trucks and matching them with available shipments. With this Uber-like app, the company can bring some added efficiency to the shipping market and help deal with that growing driver deficit.But this is also why Amazon will undoubtedly push towards self-driving vehicles for its long-haul shipments in the years to come.
Uber itself is already moving in this direction, after acquiring the San Francisco self-driving-truck startup Otto. Amazon is even more suited for this kind of gambit. It already controls an enormous supply chain, and inside that supply chain, it’s already using robotics to provide that added level of efficiency. In 2012, Amazon bought the robotics outfit Kiva for $775 million, and now, its technology helps move goods across the retailer’s massive fulfillment centers. If ever there was a fit for self-driving trucks, it’s Amazon.