Posts Tagged ‘truck’


The roads may have fewer cars on them these days, but for many truckers, the journey feels a lot longer.

by CHRISTIAN COTRONEO

There’s no shortage of people facing extraordinary adversity to help us maintain some semblance of civilization in these pandemic times.

There are the usual suspects — doctors, nurses, firefighters — who make courage under fire seem so routine.

And then there are truckers.

Rain, shine or pandemic, the U.S. relies on about 3.5 million truck drivers to keep goods — the lifeblood of an economy — in circulation.

That includes canned foods and non-perishables like tuna and rice and beans, bound for small stores and shops in every nook of the country. And yes, there’s always a need for more toilet paper on Aisle 12.

There’s also Amazon — and the unending stream of smart speakers, cordless vacuums and pretzel crackers that Americans feel they need at a time like this.

That’s to say nothing of essential medical supplies and the equipment that’s sadly emblematic of our times: masks, ventilators, disinfectant. It’s not just about distributing those goods to stores and homes, but getting the raw materials, like plastic and pulp, to the manufacturers.

All of it is literally a trucker’s burden to bear. And that burden has never been heavier.

Taking truck drivers for granted

“I think people, quite frankly, take truck drivers for granted when things are normal,” Todd Jadin, of Wisconsin-based Schneider, which boasts 14,000 drivers under its umbrella, tells USA Today. “The work they do every day is that much more important right now.”

Sure, driving is a little easier these days — thanks to the millions of Americans who are staying home and trying to social distance the coronavirus to death.

But for truckers, already accustomed to driving as many as 11 hours per day, the road has gotten even longer. That’s because, for all the miles a trucker logs, there’s always been a bright beacon at the side of just about every highway: the iconic truck stop.

Maybe it’s a diner, where a driver can get a meal and even take a shower. Or a parking lot, where the engines finally go silent, and truckers catch some much-needed shut-eye.

The thing is, as Wired reports, those gleaming lights are going dark. Side-of-the-road eateries are closing to discourage public gatherings. State authorities are even shuttering places that specifically cater to truckers — spots at turnpikes that offer showers, parking and bathrooms.

One of American’s biggest travel center operators, TA-Petro, recently closed all of its driver lounges and fitness centers, Wired also notes.

The few facilities still open are crowded and, as you might imagine, an increasingly risky proposition in these viral times.

But that’s one area where you can help. Follow the lead of police officers in Eufaula, Alabama, who help truckers who can’t fit their rigs through the drive-thru — often the only option when restaurant dining rooms are closed.

“We will either go get something for you or give you a ride to the nearest drive-thru (if you don’t mind riding in the back seat!” the department posted on Facebook. “If manpower is such that we cannot assist, we will secure someone that can.”


Truck stops are closing down, giving drivers fewer opportunities to take a load off.

Truckers are parents, too

And truckers face other hurdles unique to these times.

“If a school system closes down, our employees may not have child care,” T.J. O’Connor of Kansas-based trucking-and-logistics company YRC Worldwide, tells USA Today. “Or we have a driver go out there to make a pickup and there’s a sign on the door that says one of the employees tested positive and they’re closed. What do you do?”

But these days, too much is riding on a trucker’s cargo for them to simply stay home.

“Times like this, people need to realize that everything you have is brought to you by truck drivers. Right now, we’re the ones out there taking chances on our health and our safety to make sure there’s food in the grocery stores,” Robert Stewart, a Pennsylvania-based trucker tells CBS News.

In other words, they deserve our admiration now more than ever.

As Deb Labree, an independent owner-operator based in Missouri, tells the industry journal Freight Waves, “When this pandemic is over, I hope truckers who were a huge part of keeping America moving and the shelves stocked realize they have achieved hero status in my book.”

https://www.mnn.com/green-tech/transportation/stories/truckers-coronavirus-heroes-pandemic-economy?utm_source=Weekly+Newsletter&utm_campaign=cc33a3c162-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_WED0325_2020&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_fcbff2e256-cc33a3c162-40844241

Uber has been sending self-driving trucks on delivery runs across Arizona since November, the first step in what promises to be a freight transportation revolution that could radically reshape the jobs of long-haul truckers.

After testing its technology earlier in 2017, Uber began contracting with trucking companies to use its own autonomous Volvo big rigs to take over loads as they traverse the state, it disclosed.

In Uber’s current program, a trucker meets the self-driving truck at the Arizona state border, which then takes the load across the state before handing it off to a second conventional trucker for the short-haul trip. During the autonomous trip, an Uber employee rides in the driver seat of the autonomous truck to monitor — but not to drive.

If one day both the technology and regulations play out in favor of self-driving trucks, two scenarios emerge.

The first would find self-driving trucks handling long-haul highway legs with no one at the wheel as they meet up with conventional truckers, who then drive the deliveries into city centers. The other possibility is Uber could sell its technology to trucking owner-operators, who then use it to sleep while the truck handles the bulk of long-distance driving.

Truckers make their money only when their rigs are on the road. They are also limited by law in terms of how much time they can spend behind the wheel, something a self-driving truck could impact positively. It could also introduce more round-trip hauls that find a driver back home at the end of the day’s journey.

“The big step for us recently is that we can plan to haul goods in both directions, using Uber Freight to coordinate load pickups and dropoffs with local truckers,” said Alden Woodrow, who leads Uber’s self-driving truck effort. “Keeping trucking local allows these drivers to make money while staying closer to home.”

Uber Freight, which launched last May, is an app that matches shippers with loads using technology drawn from Uber’s ride-hailing app. Typically such trucking logistics have been coordinated through phone calls and emails.

The San Francisco-based company isn’t alone in its pursuit of self-driving truck technology, with start-ups such as Embark joining companies such as Tesla and its new Tesla Semi to carve out a slice of a $700 billion industry that moves 70% of all domestic freight, according to the American Trucking Association.

“Today we’re operating our own trucks, but in the future it remains to be seen what happens,” he says. “Trucking is a very large and sophisticated business with a lot of companies in the value chain who are good at what they do. So our desire is to partner.”

Uber’s trucks stick to the highway

Uber’s current Arizona pilot program does not feature trucks making end-to-end runs from pickup to delivery because it’s tough to make huge trucks navigate urban traffic on their own.

Instead, Uber’s Volvo trucks receive loads at state border weigh stations. These trucks are equipped with hardware, software and an array of sensors developed by Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group that help the truck make what amounts to a glorified cruise-control run across the state. Uber ATG also is behind ongoing self-driving car testing in Arizona, Pennsylvania and San Francisco.

Uber did not disclose what items it is transporting for which companies.

Once the Uber trucks exit at the next highway hub near the Arizona border, they are met by a different set of truckers who hitch the trailer to own their cab to finish the delivery.

The idea is that truckers get to go home to their families instead of being on the road. In a video Uber created to tout the program, the company showcases a California trucker who, once at the Arizona border, hands his trailer over to an Uber self-driving truck for its trip east, while picking up a different load that needs to head back to California.

Autonomous vehicles are being pursued by dozens of companies ranging from large automakers to technology start-ups. Slowly, states are adapting their rules to try to be on the front lines of a potential transportation shift.

Michigan, California and Arizona, for example, have been constantly updating their autonomous car testing laws in order to court companies working on such tech. California recently joined Arizona in announcing that it would allow self-driving cars to be tested without a driver at the wheel.

Skeptics of the self-driving gold rush include the Consumer Watchdog Group’s John Simpson, who in a recent letter to lawmakers said “any autonomous vehicle legislation should require a human driver behind a steering wheel capable of taking control.”


Uber refocuses after lawsuit

Uber’s announcement aims to cast a positive light on the company’s trucking efforts and comes a few weeks after it settled a contentious year-old lawsuit brought by Waymo, the name of Google’s self-driving car program.

Waymo’s suit argued that Uber was building light detection and ranging sensors — roof-top lasers that help vehicles interpret their surroundings — based on trade secrets stolen by Anthony Levandowski, who left Waymo to start a self-driving truck company called Otto. Months after its creation in early 2016, Uber bought Otto for around $680 million.

Last year, Travis Kalanick, the Uber CEO who negotiated the deal with Levandowski, was ousted from the company he co-founded after a rash of bad publicity surrounding charges that Uber ran a sexist operation that often skirted the law. Levandowski was fired by Uber after he repeatedly declined to answer questions from Waymo’s lawyers.

In settling the suit, Uber had to give Waymo $245 million in equity, but it did not admit guilt. Uber has long maintained that its LiDAR was built with its own engineering know-how.

“Our trucks do not run on the same self-driving (technology) as Otto trucks did,” says Woodrow. “It’s Uber tech, and we’re improving on it all the time.”

https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2018/03/06/uber-trucks-start-shuttling-goods-arizona-no-drivers/397123002/

Thanks to Kebmodee for bringing this to the It’s Interesting community.

A convoy of self-driving trucks recently drove across Europe and arrived at the Port of Rotterdam. No technology will automate away more jobs — or drive more economic efficiency — than the driverless truck.

Shipping a full truckload from L.A. to New York costs around $4,500 today, with labor representing 75 percent of that cost. But those labor savings aren’t the only gains to be had from the adoption of driverless trucks.

Where drivers are restricted by law from driving more than 11 hours per day without taking an 8-hour break, a driverless truck can drive nearly 24 hours per day. That means the technology would effectively double the output of the U.S. transportation network at 25 percent of the cost.

And the savings become even more significant when you account for fuel efficiency gains. The optimal cruising speed from a fuel efficiency standpoint is around 45 miles per hour, whereas truckers who are paid by the mile drive much faster. Further fuel efficiencies will be had as the self-driving fleets adopt platooning technologies, like those from Peloton Technology, allowing trucks to draft behind one another in highway trains.

Trucking represents a considerable portion of the cost of all the goods we buy, so consumers everywhere will experience this change as lower prices and higher standards of living.

While the efficiency gains are too real to pass up, the technology will have tremendous adverse effects as well.
In addition, once the technology is mature enough to be rolled out commercially, we will also enjoy considerable safety benefits. This year alone more people will be killed in traffic accidents involving trucks than in all domestic airline crashes in the last 45 years combined. At the same time, more truck drivers were killed on the job, 835, than workers in any other occupation in the U.S.

Even putting aside the direct safety risks, truck driving is a grueling job that young people don’t really want to do. The average age of a commercial driver is 55 (and rising every year), with projected driver shortages that will create yet more incentive to adopt driverless technology in the years to come.

While the efficiency gains are real — too real to pass up — the technology will have tremendous adverse effects as well. There are currently more than 1.6 million Americans working as truck drivers, making it the most common job in 29 states.

The loss of jobs representing 1 percent of the U.S. workforce will be a devastating blow to the economy. And the adverse consequences won’t end there. Gas stations, highway diners, rest stops, motels and other businesses catering to drivers will struggle to survive without them.

The demonstration in Europe shows that driverless trucking is right around the corner. The primary remaining barriers are regulatory. We still need to create on- and off-ramps so human drivers can bring trucks to the freeways where highway autopilot can take over. We may also need dedicated lanes as slow-moving driverless trucks could be a hazard for drivers. These are big projects that can only be done with the active support of government. However, regulators will be understandably reluctant to allow technology with the potential to eliminate so many jobs.

Yet the benefits from adopting it will be so huge that we can’t simply outlaw it. A 400 percent price-performance improvement in ground transportation networks will represent an incredible boost to human well-being. Where would we be if we had banned mechanized agriculture on the grounds that most Americans worked in farming when tractors and harvesters were introduced in the early 20th century?

We often discuss the displacement of jobs by artificial intelligence and robots in the abstract, as something that we’ll have to eventually tackle in the far distant future. But the recent successful demonstration of the self-driving truck shows that we can’t afford to put off the conversation on how we’re going to adapt to this new reality.

The driverless truck is coming, and it’s going to automate millions of jobs

Thanks to Kebmodee for bringing this to the It’s Interesting community.