Which drivers of change will affect their skills?
Drivers and vehicle operators are a homogeneous group, differentiated mainly by the vehicle they use (such as vehicles for road transport, trains, industrial, agricultural or ship machinery). Rapid technological, societal and economic changes are expected to affect the nature of their job tasks, and therefore the skills needed.
Advances in technology, in terms of new tools and software and automation/robots will affect all sub-occupations in this group from different angles:
plant operators and those handling machines (such as drivers working in warehousing, forestry or construction) will increasingly be challenged by more advanced/computer-controlled machines and vehicles. Knowledge of and familiarity with new technologies and advanced machines will be critical, as automation increasingly infiltrates warehousing.
Technological advancements in land transport have already affected commercial transportation; for example, taxi drivers have adopted GPS devices and mobile applications that improve the client’s experience. Automation of vehicles (e.g. railway brake, signal and switch operators) have already limited the role of some drivers. Although they are still at planning phase, car automation is expected to grow in the future, substantially changing the experience, role and hence skills of drivers.
However, more developments are underway, expected to revolutionise transport and mobility: for example, the ‘platooning in mobility’ will change the role of drivers. Truck platooning regards “a number of trucks equipped with state-of-the-art driving support systems – one closely following the other. This forms a platoon with the trucks driven by smart technology, and mutually communicating.” 6 Platooning is expected to improve traffic safety, regulate traffic flows, and reduce fuel consumption through constant speed cruise 7. Truck drivers will therefore need new skills relevant to engineering and IT to be able to drive these “smart trucks”.
The strong rise in demand for environmentally sustainable mobility will emphasize the importance of green skills. Implications for the role of drivers and vehicle operators can be expected both in terms of the type of vehicles/machines they use and how efficiently they use them 8
. Accelerating the shift to sustainable and smart mobility is one of the goals of the Commission Communication European Green Deal , foreseeing the 90% reduction in transport emissions to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. The greater shift to cleaner forms of fuels and low-emission vehicles can be expected to change the map and the overall modus operandi in transport, and so the skills profiles of drivers. 2021 will be ‘European Year of Rail’, having as an objective the promotion of rail transport and its alignment with the objectives of the European Green Deal.
The political agenda can be expected to influence trends in employment. For example, commercial vehicle drivers are now required to monitor their driving skills and drive more efficiently. The demand for bus and train drivers could increase as a consequence of efforts to promote and encourage the use of public transport to lower emissions 9
The Italian National Association for Travellers’ Drivers (ANAV) and the Italian Association of Local Public Transportation Companies (ASSTRA) started cooperating in 2013 and launched the Driving Style Academy, which provides classes for professional drivers to cope with the new standards and requirements relating to ‘green’ mobility. The training includes both theoretical classes and on-the-road training, and aims at teaching a low-emissions driving style (so-called Eco-Drive), that would benefit the life of citizens, especially in urban areas.
As a part of its Ditigitalization and future of work project
, Cedefop estimates the risks of automation
for occupations. The most exposed occupations are those with significant share of tasks that can be automated – operation of specialised technical equipment, routine or non-autonomous tasks – and those with a small reliance on communication, collaboration, critical thinking and customer-serving skills. The risk of automation is further accentuated in those (occupations) in which people report they have little access to professional training that could help them to cope with labour market changes. Drivers & vehicle operators belong to occupations where the automation risk is very high.