Autonomous trucking has long been heralded as the answer to a variety of lingering supply chain ills, including hours-of-service constraints, underutilized assets and lost miles driven without load, and growing shortages of fuel. workforce. Once thought of as a thing of the distant future, autonomous technology is becoming an achievable reality faster than expected. Trucking companies that hope to use this technology more effectively should start making strategic changes to their operating models today, or they run the risk of not being prepared for tomorrow.
Locomation has made a name for itself with its human-guided Autonomous Relay Convoy (ARC), the first step towards full autonomy. An ARC system consists of two self-driving trucks with a driver in each truck. Each driver actively leads the convoy in turn, fully engaged in the driving function, while the driver of the follower truck rests in the bunk while the vehicle drives in autonomous follower mode.
This human-guided phase of the company’s four-step approach to autonomous trucking allows for step-by-step progression without compromising the safety of drivers, others on the road, or loads. ARC technology allows the trucks to operate 20 to 22 hours a day in this ferry activity, doubling a driver’s standard 11 hours of driving under current U.S. Department of Transportation hours of service rules.
As innovation in the autonomous space moves at breakneck speed, Locomation has devised a way to help trucking companies rethink their operating models to start seeing some of the most anticipated impacts of autonomous technology – including improved efficiency and reduced operating costs – even before they deploy self-driving trucks.
With Locomation’s Autonomous Relay Network (ARN), trucking companies can increase overall efficiency, reduce operating costs by 5-7%, and establish a sustainability roadmap. ARN addresses a universal challenge in the trucking industry: the growing gap between available trucks and qualified drivers.
“There is a gap between the capacity of the drivers and the capacity of the trucks. The driver has to sleep, so the truck has to sleep, which means equipment underutilization of 50% or more. In fact, we know it’s more like 70%,” said Tom Kroswek, vice president of strategy and business development at Locomation. “So if we want to double the capacity of a fleet, how can we run trucks at 1,000 miles a day? To do this, a carrier must fundamentally change its operating model on the road. »
Locomation’s solution is to divide the driving activity between long-distance transport and local assets, allowing trucks to run more than 20 hours a day. In this model, trucking companies can optimize line hauling using team drivers or choose to set up shifts with different drivers doing, for example, 500-mile round trips via 250-mile transfers. in each direction.
This shift in operating model gives trucking companies a taste of the rewards that await when they are able to deploy the company’s ARC system. It also prepares businesses for a smooth transition to self-sufficiency when the time comes.
“Once a company has this optimized operating model in place, the integration of the ARC system is seamless. Our autonomous convoys, with a human-driven truck in the lead and a second follower truck operating in autonomous mode with its driver at rest, will make the efficiencies of the new operating model supersonic,” said Kroswek. “At full implementation, we estimate an increase in earnings three to four times greater than current levels.”
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