A popular topic of conversation among everyone in the industry right now is autonomous trucking – self-driving trucks. In the past year, the companies developing the technology have expanded, morphed, and drawn more popular interest than ever. As the landscape shifts, technology advances, and investments continue increasing, there’s a lot to learn. And President and CEO Eric Fuller has been keeping up. Here’s what he’s learned so far.
Q: How long do you think it will be until we see autonomous trucks on the road?
A: The timeline for bringing autonomous trucks to market really depends on who you ask. I’m probably more optimistic than most. Particularly with the current regulatory environment allowing autonomous testing in 35 states, I believe fully autonomous trucks will be running lanes within the next five years, with a more measured rollout in the coming decade. But I don’t see them replacing drivers all-together. Their job may look different, but those professionals will always be vital to the industry’s success.
Q: What are some good ways for shippers to engage with autonomous companies and carriers like U.S. Xpress who are using or testing autonomous technology?
A: There are a lot of ways you can engage. At U.S. Xpress, we made significant time investments in connecting with and getting to know all the players. I think that’s the best approach for shippers and carriers – at least while autonomous companies are still developing and testing their technology. Most autonomous companies are looking for our experience and insight into the transportation and logistics industry, so it’s a great time to start these conversations.
Q: How do you think autonomous trucking will fit into the current supply chain structure?
A: I see it causing a pretty big shift – for the better. I predict that autonomous technology will contribute hugely to improving the lives of drivers, increasing safety on the roads, and creating efficiencies for shippers and carriers alike. I even think it has the potential to replace shipping via rail in a lot of instances. But only time will tell.
Q: Where has U.S. Xpress invested in autonomous?
A: Our longest-standing engagement is with TuSimple. We’ve been working with them since 2019 and recently began testing their autonomous technology on select lanes for some of our customers. TuSimple is gathering vital information from the testing and able to benchmark safety and efficiency standards that will help bring the tech to market.
Along with some other large carriers and venture capitalists, we’ve also made modest investments in a handful of other autonomous companies to remain connected as they implement, test, and modify additional technology.
Furthermore, our Senior VP of Sales Dustin Koehl is helping lead the autonomous trucking charge as Vice Chair of the American Trucking Association’s autonomous truck committee. He and his other committee members are dedicated to working with Developers, OEM’s, state execs and associations as the industry prepares for regulatory and commercialization paths. I’m looking forward to seeing how they continue to drive progress and solutions.
Check back for additional updates around autonomous trucking, and be sure to join us for our upcoming webinar, where we’ll dig further into this topic. Details to come.