This just in: Rats are being trained to take over all the jobs in the trucking industry robots can’t do.

October 25, 2019

Wendy Parker


Hey y’all, guess what?

Scientists at University of Richmond have succeeded in teaching rats to drive tiny electric cars. I have it on super-top-secret and totally imaginary authority that these rats are being trained to take over all the jobs in the trucking industry robots can’t do.

(At the behest of my editors and attorney, I’m required to state the above assertion may be a filthy lie. Not the part about rodentia piloting tiny electric cars – that’s totally true.)

Maybe we can hire the rats to deliver some cheese to those <<cough, ATA, cough>> who continue to whine about a driver shortage. Or perhaps a load of the world’s tiniest violins, to serenade and soothe their ever-lovin’ souls when they cry about driver retention.

According to the study, these rats worked for Fruit Loops and were happy as hell about it. (More on that later.) Interestingly enough, above mentioned driver-shortage/retention whiners/crybabies don’t pay their human drivers enough to afford Fruit Loops and wonder why they can’t find enough warm bodies to fill the seats.

Maybe if they followed the new hires around and collected their poop, they’d be able to scientifically determine driver-satisfaction levels.

Wait. What?

Before I go any further with this, I’m going to claim a very resounding “not it.” I work with a newsroom crew, folks. The policy of, “He who smelt it dealt it,” is applied in assignment fashion that generally requires whoever proposes the big ideas to do the research. This is one in which I have to claim a solid and resounding “nope.”

That being said, researchers at U of R found their Fruit-Loop-eating rat drivers to be less stressed and overall happier by collecting their poop. Tests for corticosterone (stress hormone) as well as dehydroepiandrosterone (counter-stress hormone) levels revealed the rats that underwent training had higher levels dehydroepiandrosterone, indicating a more relaxed state.

I can strongly theorize without physically collecting poop that new hires at churn-and-burn fleets have offal containing high levels of “OhmyGodwhathaveIdone” hormone and roller-rack Toronados. Neither of which is conducive to overall happiness, by the way.

I’d also propose that if the happy rats had to drive their neat little cars around the 285 loop in Atlanta once or twice, they’d grow a quick dislike for loops in general.

All kidding aside, the rat-driving tests are being conducted to study brain chemistry involved in treating schizophrenia and depression, not to take over the trucking jobs robots can’t do. I don’t want to make light of mental health or research that might help. It’s important.

It’s also important to understand that paying drivers is no joke. It’s no joke that first-year wages for a company driver who is the head of a one-income family with one child are still woefully below national poverty levels. I’m not kidding when I say they can’t afford name-brand cereal.

If you pay them, they will come. If you train them properly and treat them like more than rats in a race, they will stay.

It doesn’t take poop-collecting or a scientific study to come to that conclusion.

Thank goodness.