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LAS VEGAS — Automated truck developer Locomation has signed an eight-year agreement with Christenson Transportation to deploy its human-guided autonomous convoy technology.
Christenson is the third motor carrier to partner with Locomation, joining Wilson Logistics and PGT Trucking.
The companies announced the new agreement on March 20 at the Truckload Carriers Association’s annual conference.
Christenson Transportation said it intends to deploy 500 trucks with Locomation’s Autonomous Relay Convoy system, which electronically links a pair of trucks to form an automated convoy. The driver of the lead truck guides the convoy while the second truck follows autonomously, enabling the driver in that vehicle to go off duty and rest.
Using Locomation’s planning and scheduling systems, Christenson will restructure its operations to run its trucks 20 or more hours per day with the goal of increasing its freight-hauling capacity by 52%, the companies said. The drafting effect of the convoy can provide a boost to fuel efficiency as well.
“Locomation now has three bona fide contracts, three invaluable partners, to enable them to provide real, money-making autonomous truck services to their customers when the ARC system starts deploying next year,” said Çetin Meriçli, the technology company’s co-founder and CEO. “We are prepared to be the first autonomous technology company to deploy trucks safely, legally and routinely in commercial operations at scale across the United States.”
Christenson Transportation plans to deploy 500 trucks equipped with Locomation’s automated convoy system. (Christenson Transportation)
Don Christenson, president of Christenson Transportation, said the carrier plans to begin with a hub in the Nashville, Tenn., area and develop six automated freight lanes, each about 500 miles, along the I-40, I-24 and I-65 corridors.
“Not only do we think we’ll be 100% Locomation autonomous vehicles within the next few years, but we believe we’ll be able to grow our fleet, improve the quality of life for our drivers and capacity for our customers,” Christenson said.
Christenson Transportation, based in the Springfield, Mo., area, specializes in hauling high-value, high-risk and time-sensitive freight.
Locomation, which describes its system as “human-guided autonomy,” is pursuing a different deployment model than other autonomous truck developers, most of which are working to commercialize unmanned solo-truck operations on hub-to-hub routes.
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The primary factor constraining truck capacity in today’s market is the industry’s struggle to recruit and retain enough professional drivers, said Andrew Erin, director of safety and risk at PGT Trucking,
“Drivers are our limiting factor, and I think every other top-flight carrier here is in the same boat as us,” Erin said. “We’re very excited to partner with Locomation to potentially double the amount of loads we can move with our existing driver force.”
Earlier in the month, Locomation’s first carrier partner, Wilson Logistics, recommitted to deploying 1,120 ARC units in its fleet.
Wilson Logistics originally planned to introduce the technology in its West Coast trucking operation, but the motor carrier sold that portion of its business late last year to Ashley Pacific Northwest, a subsidiary of Ashley Distribution Services.
Now Wilson Logistics is planning to deploy the automated convoys from its Springfield, Mo., and Dallas-Fort Worth hubs.