White truck with small flatbed for deliveries

Self Driving Trucks: Can They be Helpful?

Artificial intelligence has developed a lot over the past few years, with self-driving cars as a major achievement. Naturally, this technology has left us wondering when the same advances will be applied to trucks. At Iron Horse Transport, advances in trucking have always captured our attention. But can self-driving technology improve construction site deliveries in New York City?

Essentially, the principle mechanics would remain the same. However, trucks are larger, heavier, and pose a graver risk for drivers. And as a New York trucking company, we’re interested in how these trucks will change the industry. Here, we will go over the potential issues or limitations of this technology.


Self-Driving Cars

Despite the lack of wide availability, self-driving cars have already hit the road. However, the technology is not totally automated. In order to reach your destination safely, self-driving cars require a human operator capable of stepping in if the occasion calls for it. This means that drivers can’t drink alcohol, sleep, or be in a state that would prevent them from safe driving. This also means that they cannot be preoccupied with other tasks, like texting, reading, or watching a screen. In short, with the current technology, drivers need to remain alert, and ready to step in at a moment’s notice. For our New York trucking company, this is exciting, but also somewhat intimidating.

Premium car dealers, like BMW and Tesla, have already released rudimentary self-driving technology to the market. Some estimate that Google’s self-driving cars will be available to the public within the year.


What about Self Driving Trucks?

Naturally, we pay constant attention to trends in the trucking industry. Whether there are new maintenance procedures, winter safety tips or liftgate applications, we try to adapt as quickly as possible. So, we’ve made it a point to pay very close attention to updates in self-driving trucks.

Despite the state of the relatively premature technology, there are many companies racing to apply this technology. Volvo and Daimler, both established manufacturers with vehicles used by many trucking companies, have begun this process. Tesla and Audi are also considering adapting their self-driving technology in the trucking world.

But, these self-driving trucks have a somewhat narrow purpose.


Consideration #1: Long Haul Trucking

Long haul trucking is responsible for most freight transportation throughout the country.

Before final mile delivery, where a specialized trucking company moves freight from a warehouse/checkpoint to the destination, this product is transferred through long haul trucking.

Long highways with fewer pedestrians and minimal traffic are the ideal location for self-driving trucks. Remote locations with long stretches of straight road can allow for simple, risk-free driving. Without traffic lights or walking hazards, these trucks don’t require the same level of hazard detection that urban-based cars need. Furthermore, these trucks don’t have to account for rest stop regulations.


Consideration #2: Trucks in Urban Spaces

While self-driving trucks are perfect for navigating isolated roads, they’re not ideal everywhere. Urban (and even suburban) roads have a lot more risk factors. Trucking in New York City presents a very specific set of challenges. Regardless of technological advances, these environments will not be able to accommodate self-driving technology.

Self-driving trucks are not in the foreseeable future for union job site superintendents. Because they’re located in busy city streets with countless obstacles, self-driving trucks wouldn’t be able to reach these destinations. This means that New York trucking companies that cater to union job sites will still perform a necessary function.

At Iron Horse Transport, our trucking team is fully staffed by union teamsters, with an understanding of proper shipping procedures.


Our New York trucking company has several advantages over self-driving trucks.

Forklift Operation

To operate safely and successfully, forklifts require skill, nuance and a keen attention to detail. Automated technology would not be able to safely move and place freight around a NYC union job site.

Winter Precautions

Especially in high-volume areas, truckers need to be extremely cautious during the winter. Increasing following distance, regulating the efficiency of trucking systems, and strategic braking are all vital for winter truckers. Even the most advanced self-driving truck couldn’t perform these tasks to the standard that a skilled driver could.

Over-dimensional transport

Transporting items that are too large for a normal flatbed truck is difficult. But, to complete a union construction project, this is often necessary. Self-driving trucks would be unable to account for the additional challenges present during this task. At Iron Horse Transport, we excel in over-dimensional transport services.

Intuitive Navigating

With years of experience navigating NYC, our drivers know the geography better than anyone. Responding to these traffic patterns with alternate routes allows our drivers to complete the journey promptly and safely. Self-driving trucks cannot use human knowledge to accomplish this task.

Larger Trucks

Some freight may be too tall, even for over-dimensional transport. Our New York trucking company uses larger trucks– such as step deck trailers– to transport this freight safely. This deviation from the norm might be too much for a self-driving truck to process.

Liftgate Delivery

The guiding principle behind self-driving trucks is quick, effortless deliveries. This means leaving the trailer behind. Our liftgate technology allows drivers to easily remove the freight. This gives union construction workers the freedom they need.


Self-Driving Trucks: The Verdict

For navigating NYC streets, self-driving trucks (as of right now) are not a viable option. These confusing routes require attentive and experienced drivers who excel in driving through populated areas. But, they may make a significant impact on the initial stages of transportation.

At Iron Horse Transport, we specialize in delivering freight to union job sites in NYC. Contact us to learn how we can streamline your construction process.