The Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC) has warned in a new report that jobs from the Southern California’s $1.5 trillion wholesale sector, which account for 8.3 percent of the GDP of the United States, could be at risk due to slowing Asian trade and the rapid introduction of autonomous big-rig trucks.
The EDC report states that Southern California trade and logistics jobs grew faster than America’s national GDP since 2005. L.A. County has become the nation’s wholesale trade capital, due to the Asian trade that flows through San Pedro Bay’s two ocean ports and the LAX airport complex.
Wholesale employment directly from trade and logistics reportedly accounted for 390,000 Southern California jobs in 2015. Los Angeles County led the region with 223,120 jobs, or 59 percent of all wholesale employment. Orange County was second with 80,000 whole jobs, about 21 percent; and the Inland Empire (Riverside and San Bernardino Counties) was third with 61,240 jobs, 16 percent of employment.
There are increasing concerns that the levels of wholesale sector employment are somewhat at risk due to trade with Asia leveling off recently. But the big risk for the sector is the advent of autonomous vehicles that could devastate the need for workers.
Breitbart News recently noted that Elon Musk tweeted that the “Tesla Semi” all-electric big-rig trucks will debut in September. Each vehicle will be equipped with Tesla’s “Autopilot” self-driving features. Musk claims that “Semi’ is part of Tesla’s Master Plan II to save the environment. But it could wipe out a tremendous number of human drivers.
According to Trucking.com, the 3.63 million class 8 big-rigs on the road in 2016 moved 70.1 percent of all U.S. freight. Drivers spent $142.9 billion on diesel fuel, including $39.9 billion in federal and state fuel taxes. Because many trips are scheduled at night to avoid traffic, there is currently a 25,000-driver shortage of available drivers.
Tesla, Mercedes and Volvo see the big concentration of high-cost labor at Southern California ocean ports and LAX airport as the sweet spot to replace tens of thousands of big-rig truck drivers with self-driving big-rig drones.