Driverless Trucks To Hit Alberta’s Oilsands Region Replacing $200,000/yr Operators; Big Layoffs Coming

The Alberta oilsands region and the ore mining regions in Australia use some of the biggest trucks in the world.

Above: Komatsu heavy earthmoving truck at the Tom Price iron ore mine, operated by Rio Tinto Group, near Perth, Australia.

Drivers of these behemoths cost as much as $200,000 a year. With that incentive, the push to driverless is on.

Big Layoffs Coming

The Calgary Herald reports on the and the "threat of big layoffs" as Canada’s Oilsands Pave the Way for Driverless Trucks.


The 400-tonne heavy haulers that rumble along the roads of northern Alberta’s oilsands sites are referred to in Fort McMurray as “the biggest trucks in the world,” employing thousands of operators to drive the massive rigs through the mine pits.

Increasingly, however, the giant trucks are capable of getting around without a driver. Indeed, self-driving trucks are already in use at many operations in the province, although they are still operated by drivers while the companies test whether the systems can work in northern Alberta’s variable climate.

That is about to change.

Suncor Energy Inc., Canada’s largest oil company, confirmed this week it has entered into a five-year agreement with Komatsu Ltd., the Japanese manufacturer of earthmoving and construction machines, to purchase new heavy haulers for its mining operations north of Fort McMurray. All the new trucks will be “autonomous-ready,” meaning they are capable of operating without a driver, Suncor spokesperson Sneh Seetal said.

For Suncor’s roughly 1,000 heavy-haul truck operators, however, the prospect of driverless trucks has raised more immediate fears of significant job losses.

“It’s very concerning to us as to what the future may hold,” said Ken Smith, president of Unifor Local 707A, which represents 3,300 Suncor employees. Smith said Suncor has signed agreements to purchase 175 driverless trucks.

“It’s not fantasy,” Suncor’s chief financial officer Alister Cowan told investors at an RBC Capital Markets conference in New York last week. He said the company is working to replace its fleet of heavy haulers with automated trucks “by the end of the decade.”

“That will take 800 people off our site,” Cowan said of the trucks. “At an average (salary) of $200,000 per person, you can see the savings we’re going to get from an operations perspective.”
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Venugopal AR 3 years ago Member's comment
These companies just started spoiling the millions of lives of drivers...
Sarchis Dolmanian 3 years ago Member's comment

We are conditioned to consider that profit is the most important thing. Maybe this is not exactly true.

Khalandar Shaik 3 years ago Member's comment

200K USD savings??? to operate these driverless truck but what about need of skilled technicians, this may cost much more then the driver... and again this shouldn't be at the cost of safety.

Brandt Hott 3 years ago Member's comment

Savings? I guess modern capitalism means humans are a thorn in the side of the machine. Companies want 100% profit with 0 expenses. The money they paid for this

innovation would had kept people employed for 30 years.

Tg Ramachandran 3 years ago Member's comment
Driverless cars & now automated trucks are fast replacing age old tasks done by humans! At this rate Unemployment will skyrocket around the globe which in turn will reduce demands for goods which in turn will further worsen the unemployment situation-a NIGHTMARISH scenario to think over.
Da 3 years ago Member's comment

They pay $200k/yr for a local truck driver? I have two degrees, work 60 hr/wk as a professional engineer and don't make that much.

Khalandar Shaik 3 years ago Member's comment

these are the Machines much expensive then the computers, to operate it highly experienced drivers required, and Considering environmental effect and Risk they carry, I would say $200K/yr may be still less.

in some of the Construction projects Crane operators packages are higher then the Engineers.

Jared Green 3 years ago Member's comment

Tell me about it, Da! Who would have thought? But from the sound of this article, they may all be out of work soon, so you can take some solace in that.