Line Haul Trucking is Ripe for Innovation
By Chuck Price, VP of Product at TuSimple
At TuSimple, some of the brightest minds in artificial intelligence, robotics, navigation, and more are working in pursuit of a commercially viable Level 4 SAE autonomous trucking solution. I am proud to be supporting that mission with my recent appointment to Vice President of Product, pursuing the development of TuSimple’s commercial product offerings. While working on automated truck platooning in my last role at Peloton Technology, I became familiar with the many challenges facing the trucking industry, specifically on highway and near-highway routes. This drove my interest in TuSimple and the company’s advanced solutions for a segment of the supply chain begging for innovation.
Over the past decade, line haul trucking has become more concentrated, and demand has risen and continues to rise, with spot prices hitting a record high in October, according to the Cass Truckload Linehaul Index. This trend is driven by big changes in the nature of how goods are shipped — inventory management at fulfillment centers is growing in importance, which puts added strain on our country’s trucking infrastructure to keep these hubs stocked.
TuSimple’s goal is to improve line haul trucking or the “middle mile” segment of the supply chain through automation. Here are some of the other reasons why we believe the time has come to rethink line haul trucking:
Routes that involve long stretches of highway driving are typically the most dangerous aspect of moving land freight. This is due to a combination of the high speeds and fatigue that often result from long periods of driving. The numbers are daunting: it’s currently estimated that 350,000 accidents occur annually, with human-related issues listed as a contributing factor in 87% (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety). At TuSimple, we believe autonomous technology isn’t viable if it’s not considerably safer than a human driver and we build all of our software with that criteria in mind.
Autonomous trucks are not limited by needs for rest, nourishment, hygiene, or other biological constraints. They can complete long periods of driving, potentially to the full range of the fuel tank, without stopping. The result is an ability to adjust the supply chain for maximum productivity: for example, spacing sorting and fulfillment facilities further apart. By removing the need for rest periods, automated trucks can reach their destination sooner, even if they drive slower for more efficiency. This saves on time and maintenance cost and these direct and indirect savings are invariably passed along to the consumer.
Reduced Carbon Emissions
Faster arrival time of freight shipments isn’t the only benefits derived from efficient driving practices. Autonomous trucks are also able to choose the speed that maximizes the reach of the fuel tank, as well as routes that allow for the most fuel-efficient speeds. This means that fuel use is minimized and fewer carbon emissions are released into the atmosphere.
Trucking is a tough job that can place a strain on a driver’s physical and mental health, requiring long shifts away from home and family. This has led to a growing driver shortage in America, with the American Trucking Association warning that the industry could be short 50,000 drivers by the end of 2017. Autonomous technology will mean that we can start chipping away at this deficit, while creating new and more favorable jobs, including automated fleet monitoring and maintenance, and freight staging for automated hauling.
TuSimple is making great strides towards ensuring that our L4 technology is market-ready and commercially viable within the near future through ongoing testing and research. With each test mile we are getting closer to mapping out our role in the national and global logistics infrastructure, and achieving our goal of a safer, cleaner and more efficient trucking industry.
Article by Chuck Price, Vice President of Product at TuSimple
Chuck Price was recently appointed to Vice President of Product at TuSimple, where he is responsible for TuSimple’s production engineering and functional safety programs, as well as oversight of TuSimple’s development and testing operations in Tucson. Price has over 25 years of experience in the development and management of innovative technologies for companies like Peloton Technology, where he served as VP of Engineering and Technical Operations, responsible for advanced development, production engineering, and field validation for the company’s groundbreaking automated truck platooning system.