Larry joined Ike in 2018 and is one of our Automated Vehicle Operators.
You were a truck driver for many years before joining Ike. First, tell us how you got into the trucking industry.
I always wanted to be a truck driver. As a kid, I loved playing with Tonka Trucks, and then I met Mr. O who took care of a bunch of kids in the neighborhood where I grew up. He was a truck driver and would tell stories of life on the road. He provided for a lot of kids so I wanted to pay tribute to him. He was a role model for me.
You got into automation technology early on. That must have felt like a big risk to take. What made you take the leap?
Yeah, it was very early on when the industry was first getting going. I had already worked with some Level 1 type autonomy in trucks like braking systems and lane departure warning systems, so it didn’t seem like that much of a leap from what I’ve seen technology being capable of doing. At the time, I could see the benefits of adding more robust automation technology to improve the job itself. Now that I’ve been working in this area for several years, I realize it’s not that simple of a problem to solve.
What’s the most common question you get about automated trucking?
Does it work? On a fundamental level the concept is not so different from what we have right now if you look at other industries like aviation. So we know automation technology can work, it’s figuring out how to apply similar concepts to our context and environment and it’s getting close to being solved. So yeah, it definitely can work. And I think it will be useful because now on a fleet wide basis there will be safer drivers and we’ll have a data driven approach to safety based on system requirements.
What are some of the most important trends in the trucking industry today?
Real wages have dropped. The workload has increased. The growth of our online consumer economy means there’s such a big flow of goods now. That means more trucks need to be on the road, meaning more drivers on the road. And that’s only going to continue. But conditions and pay for drivers aren’t getting better, they’re deteriorating. Something has to give.
How will automated trucking impact truck drivers?
It will be a safer job and will be more local rather than over-the-road. I can imagine it may reduce the dangerous competitive behaviors. Right now there are reasons drivers are limited to only a certain number of hours, but some drivers will push it even if it’s not comfortable or is unsafe because it means they’ll be able to make enough money to support their family back home.
And as you see in the warehouses, which are also feeling the impact of automation, it shows that automation increases the demand for labor in secondary markets. So there will be more jobs, but they’ll be different jobs.
Why should people who are interested in working towards the future of automated trucks work at Ike?
We benefit from having an extremely wide set of veteran automation professionals. We have a bunch of people who have worked in multiple modes of transportation, automation, and robotics. It’s a very professionally diverse group of people.
When you’re not working your day job, what is one of your favorite things to do?
I’m a ghost hunter and I study history. Oh, and I love repairing my vehicle. I have a Jeep Grand Cherokee right now.
What’s your favorite car you’ve owned?
A ’74 Chevy Nova in 1994. I gave it to a friend when I moved from Las Vegas to St. George for a job. He didn’t have a car and he helped me out a lot. I was sad to part with it but happy knowing it had a good home.
When you were driving OTR, what was your favorite trip?
Your favorite trip is always the trip that takes you home. But I loved anything that took me to Savannah, GA. You go over the mountains and end up at the ocean.
What’s the last time one of your colleagues at Ike made you proud?
Tommy. He’s one of our drivers and he had been driving and instructing a long time but is new to this type of technology, and has picked it up and learned so fast. I’m really proud of him.
What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?
I get here to the office to have my coffee and eat an avocado bagel.
What’s the last thing you do before bed?
I read. Right now I’m reading Transportation Geography.
Is it any good?
Oh yeah, it’s very informative about how transportation works. Highly recommend.
Thanks for the tip, Larry!