In this week’s edition, the path to autonomous vehicles is being paved, clean fuels are hitting the Alberta roads, and the industry faces the same old issues. To get future editions of Freight News in Cartoons sent directly to your inbox, subscribe here.
The autonomous truck space race continues to heat up with a number of recent announcements. In the past couple weeks, the US Postal Service kicked off a self-driving pilot program using customized Peterbilt trucks running TuSimple’s technology and Daimler Trucks launched a global Autonomous Technology Group dedicated to getting Level 4 trucks on the road in the next ten years.
Meanwhile, a recent McKinsey report claims that with the right infrastructure “multipassenger robo-taxis could account for 500 billion miles traveled on US roads—about 9 percent of the total—by 2030. By 2040, they could account for 50 percent of all miles traveled.”
Not surprisingly, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and FMCSA are now looking for public comments to help in shaping autonomous vehicle regulations.
Cleaner alternatives to diesel also continue to gain traction. Bison Transport and Trimac Transportation will soon be testing two Freightliner trucks outfitted with hydrogen electric fuel cells from Ballard Power Systems as part of the Alberta Zero-Emissions Truck Electrification Collaboration.
Renewable Natural Gas also continues to grow in popularity with UPS recently committing to a seven-year, 170 million gallon deal with Clean Energy Fuels, the largest order by any US company to date. “A new report from Bates White Economic Consulting predicts that both supply and demand for renewable natural gas (RNG) in the U.S. transportation sector will grow rapidly over the next five years.”
“We need to collectively and individually step up to this particular moment in time. The challenge is to move forward sustainably. The energy systems upon which transport systems depend on and vice versa, will be completely different in the future than anything that you or I grew up with. We will have decentralized, digitalized and decarbonized energy systems – what we will see is in effect, the democratization of energy, which is both profoundly exciting, and at the same time, hugely disruptive.”
Increasing HOS Flexibility
Though new technologies are creating change, other industry issues remain the same.
Ahead of the scheduled changes to the Hours of Service due out in June, Jannine Miller, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy at the U.S. Department of Transportation, promised to “take away the heavy-hand of government.” The changes are unlikely to satisfy Steve Viscelli, author of The Big Rig: Trucking & the Decline of the American Dream, who claims that “the foundation of any change in hours of service regulations should be greater accuracy in reporting. In major segments of the industry significant underreporting of hours remains despite the adoption of electronic logs.”
There was also an interesting back-and-forth between David Roush, President of KSM Transport Advisors, and Bob Voltmann, President and CEO of the TIA, about freight market dynamics and the role of freight brokers. You can read Roush’s original commentary here and Voltmann’s response here.
And finally, based on recent drops in freight volume and other key data points, Craig Fuller, CEO of FreightWaves, warned that we may be seeing the start of a freight recession. We’ll have to see how things continue to play out over the summer months, but in the meantime, here’s a good article from McKinsey on how to navigate downturns and another from HBR on how to survive a recession and thrive afterward.
Here’s to hoping it was just a blip on the SONAR.
Steele Roddick is a Content Specialist at Microdea where he creates content that helps transportation companies drive their business forward. He’s endlessly fascinated by technology trends, chess, and discovering new places to travel with his wife.