Canadian energy company to replace 400 truck drivers with self driving trucks

Canada’s largest oil company announced on Wednesday that they will be cutting about 400 heavy-equipment operator positions over the next six years as they phase in a new fleet of self-driving trucks.

The company, Suncor Energy based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, announced on Wednesday, January 31st, that it plans to deploy over 150 driver-less trucks, leading to job cuts starting as soon as 2019. At present, Suncor has nine self-driving trucks moving building materials at a job site in Alberta, making it one of the first companies in Canada to use autonomous trucks, reported Rueters.

According to CBC News, each job site will feature its own control center to manage the Komatsu autonomous vehicles, which will be specially programmed for optimum performance in the unique conditions of each job site. The self-driving trucks can operate 24 hours a day, stopping only for fuel, and their tires even last 40% longer by avoiding the sudden acceleration and abrupt steering caused by human driver error. Because of these statistics, Chief Operating Officer Mark Little believes that the $5 million apiece autonomous vehicles will not only reduce operating costs but increase overall safety at job sites.

“Often, people hear about how productive these autonomous trucks are,” said Steve Kelly, who is currently a truck driver for Suncor.

“If given the same conditions… that these autonomous units are running in, I’m sure we’d be more productive as well,” he said to CBC Radio.

“It’s two different running conditions… and we’re constantly stressing. Give us [truck drivers] the same conditions and give us some opportunities… We can show how productive our workforce can be.”

As the employer of nearly 13,000 people, Chief Operating Officer Little says that Suncor has been preparing for the autonomous switch by hiring many of its truck drivers “on a temporary basis,” and will not be laying off any “permanent employees” as they continue to work with their labor union to formulate a plan to reduce the number of employees who end up jobless, including training them for other positions.