Keep On Truckin'? Maybe Not

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The year is 1995. The place is the Dominican Republic. Thirty-plus men; some Dominican and some Haitian are walking to work. They are dressed rather smartly in khaki pants and polo shirts. They arrive at their jobsite and immediately begin to disrobe caring little that they have an audience. They remove their fine clothes and replace them with the dirty, tattered clothes that are hanging in the surrounding trees. They walk over to a very large hole dug out of the extremely hard coral that constitutes the ground upon which they walk. They pick up a random shovel or pick and begin the arduous task of digging away at the unbearably hard coral.

They wear no eye protection and some do not even have shoes. How they are able to walk on the newly exposed coral is a mystery to us Americans. The other mystery is why are these men even doing this work?

I had the occasion to meet the owner of this new, upscale housing project and asked, "What's the hole in the ground going to be?"

He replied, "A beautiful, communal swimming pool for the future homeowners." He pointed out how large this pool was going to be. It was going to be huge.

"Why do you have all these men doing this grueling task by hand? Why don't you just use a backhoe? You could dig this entire pool in less than a week with a backhoe. At this rate it will take these men many months to do all this by hand", I said rather perplexed at how they do business in this mysterious land.

"Oh, I have a backhoe" the owner replied.

"Well, why don't you use it?" I asked.

"If I was to use the machine these men would be out of a job. What would they do? How would they support their families? The creation of this pool is as much about keeping these men employed as it is about having a pool for the future residents", said the owner.

We went back to this same place a few years ago. The handmade pool is breathtaking. It's as much a piece of art as it is a pool. No one was swimming in it. Most, if not all of the homes have their own pool.

Today we have 3.5 million men and women who drive large, commercial trucks throughout our great nation. They are responsible for delivering your food, clothing and other goods to your favorite stores. We don't get to see all that many big trucks here in Vermont, but you do on I-90 and I-80 going across America. I had the occasion to drive to Iowa a week ago; out and back in four days. I have never seen so many big trucks in all my life. There were hundreds and hundreds of big trucks on these roads.

Tomorrow corporations are hoping to replace these drivers with driverless trucks. "A convoy of self-driving trucks recently drove across Europe and arrived at the Port of Rotterdam. No technology will automate away more jobs — or drive more economic efficiency — than the driverless truck. Shipping a full truckload from L.A. to New York costs around $4,500 today, with labor representing 75 percent of that cost. But those labor savings aren't the only gains to be had from the adoption of driverless trucks. Where drivers are restricted by law from driving more than 11 hours per day without taking an 8-hour break, a driverless truck can drive nearly 24 hours per day. That means the technology would effectively double the output of the U.S. transportation network at 25 percent of the cost." - TechCrunch.com

The good news is that our corporations will realize significant savings, but what do we do with the 3.5 million displaced people and their families? Do we care about them like my friend in the Dominican Republic cared about his workers?

Bob is a writer and has written two Vermont humor books and worked with Bobby Zappa on his memoirs, "Frankie & Bobby - Growing up Zappa"

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