Autonomous trucks have the power to revolutionize logistics with a 30% reduction in costs, a 50% increase in daily driving range, and virtually 24/7 operations, Deloitte reveals. Indeed, self-driving trucks are increasingly being deployed on roads across the United States, and, based on reports from developers, it’s likely commercial autonomous long-haul trucks will be in operation as soon as next year. For businesses across the supply chain, self-driving trucks can improve efficiency, and save plenty of time and money, while also helping meet the growing demand for quicker and more reliable shipping.
30%+ per-mile cost reduction
In particular, autonomous trucks are estimated to produce a 30% or greater per-mile cost reduction when compared to the current manually-driven truck model, as revealed in Deloitte’s report. This cost decrease is the combined result of reduced labor costs and improved driving times and range, along with better fuel efficiency and safety performance. And, since self-driving trucks are able to run virtually 24/7, daily range also increases dramatically — up to 1,200 miles from 600 miles. The daily schedule is no longer slowed down due to the need for regular breaks necessary for human drivers. As such, productivity and delivery capacity benefits from a sizable boost — all without having to increase fleet sizes.
Solving the driver shortage
There’s currently a truck driver shortage of 80,000 in the United States — a figure set to surpass 160,000 by 2030 if current trends continue, the American Trucking Association reveals. And, since trucks transport over 70% of the nation’s freight by weight, a driver shortage is bad news for the supply chain. So, although driver retention is an ongoing challenge for logistics companies, autonomous trucks are a potential solution since they reduce the number of drivers needed. Self-driving trucks also have the benefit of improving safety and eliminating road accidents caused by human error.
Optimizing the supply chain network
Self-driving trucks can revolutionize the supply chain network for shippers. Lack of capacity versus available loads currently results in high transport expenses. Self-driving trucks, on the other hand, can minimize costs and bring prices down — making them a more attractive option over trains. Virtual 24/7 operation also means shorter lead times, so autonomous trucks are also a cheaper option compared to expensive air freight. More than that, self-driving trucks also have the potential to remove various touch points along the shipping journey — beginning from manufacturing site through to consumption destination — therefore further cutting costs and saving time.
Solving the challenges of cold chain logistics
Cold chain logistics refers to the transportation of temperature-sensitive products like food, drink, and pharmaceutical products. The goal is to keep the products refrigerated the whole time in order to prevent spoilage — which poses a greater challenge when compared to transporting a typical load. In fact, food loss occurs at every stage of the supply chain with around 30%-40% of the country’s food supply lost this way in total, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates. A potential solution? Refrigerated autonomous trucks with the ability to move goods fast and can operate at almost all hours of the day. As a result, fresh produce has a longer shelf life, therefore resulting in lower consumer prices, fresher food, and less waste. These self-driving trucks also reduce carbon emissions since they keep the total amount of time the refrigeration unit on the trailer runs for to a minimum.
As an example, Hirschbach Motor Lines, Inc, — an Iowa-based transportation service — recently teamed up with Aurora Innovation, Inc. to launch a new commercial pilot program testing automated refrigerated trucks. The Peterbilt 597, outfitted with the Aurora Driver, transports temperature-controlled cargo between Houston and Dallas — a 400-mile round trip. Since self-driving trucks can operate around the clock, a load can be transported from Dallas to Los Angeles in as little as one day. By the end of 2023, the pilot load volume is set to increase to 100 loads per week, while commercial launch is expected for 2024. The Aurora Driver will also eventually be able to operate in diverse weather conditions — meaning it’ll be able to run freight across the country.
“Refrigerated goods need to be delivered in a timely manner otherwise they could spoil in transit and maintaining the proper functioning of the trailer is critical. We’re working closely with Aurora to ensure their operations accommodate this time sensitivity and that they have the proper procedures in place to ensure our refrigerated cooling units in the trailer are fueled and monitored for the right temperature,” said Richard Stocking, Hirschbach co-CEO.
Self-driving trucks have the potential to revolutionize logistics. By slashing costs, improving efficiency, and solving the challenge of cold chain logistics, autonomous trucks are sure to soon optimize the supply chain.