Steel Products

Trucking Transformation: Summit Panel on EV and AV Trucks

Written by Brett Linton

The trucking industry is undergoing a transformation, according to industry experts speaking at the SMU’s Steel Summit 2022 Conference.

Panelists explained how the industry has become more challenging in recent years due to a lack of drivers and trucks, disruptions slowing the supply chain, and changing rules of the road. With new equipment and technology becoming available, experts discussed how the industry will evolve with electrification, alternative fuel vehicles, autonomous driving, and convoy solutions.

Tuesday’s panel included Gregg Troian, president of PGT Trucking, Inc., Pablo Koziner, president, energy & commercial of Nikola Motor Company, and Dr. Çetin Meriçli, CEO and co-founder of Locomation.

Mr. Troian started the discussion by outlining the difficulties his company has been facing. He explained how driver retention can be very costly, with trucking companies spending an average of $10,000 to replace each driver that leaves. He added that expanding his fleet is no easy task given the current market – out of a 400-truck order PGT placed in November 2020, the company has only received 50 of those trucks to date, and the balance are incomplete, many appearing finished but waiting for additional components to arrive to become fully operable.

Troian said his company is working with both Locomation and Nikola because they “support our initiatives to address the driver and truck shortage with autonomous technology.”

Nikola Motor Company President Pablo Koziner explained that his company is committed to helping the trucking industry undergo electrification and maximize efficiency and safety along the way.

“Nikola is all for decarbonizing and removing our dependency on fossil fuels,” he said. 

Parked just outside the Georgia International Convention Center entrance, Nikola displayed one of their new electric semi-trucks for Summit attendees to examine up close.

Locomation’s autonomous driving solution – human-guided autonomy for semi-trucks – is comprised of two trucks that are electronically tethered together with lead and follower truck positions, Dr. Meriçli explained.

The trucks travel as a convoy, each with a driver inside. One driver operates the lead truck while the driver of the second truck can rest, off the clock, as autonomous software guides that truck behind the first. The trucks swap places periodically to allow each driver to take turns leading or resting.

With such technology, trucks can cover as much as 1,000 miles over 22 hours in a day. According to Dr. Meriçli, it results in a 22% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, a 21% reduction in fuel consumption, and a 233% increase in driver time at home.

During the Q and A segment, the panel of experts explained the benefit of drafting between trucks, the reduction in idling time and emissions through technology, and freight optimization. The result of the transformation is for every mile a truck drives to be more productive, efficient, and meaningful.

By Brett Linton,

Brett Linton

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