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.
The move to driverless trucks comes as Suncor and its competitors in the oilsands look for opportunities to cut costs and boost productivity, an effort that has intensified amid the year-long plunge in oil prices. The steep fall in prices has already forced the sector as a whole to lay off thousands, with Suncor itself letting go 1,000 people this year.