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July 29, 2021 12:30 PM, EDT

TuSimple, Ryder Partner on Terminals for Autonomous Trucks

Ryder and TuSimple trucks Ryder by JB Reed/ Bloomberg News; TuSimple by Seth Clevenger/Transport Topics

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Self-driving truck developer TuSimple and Ryder System Inc. announced a partnership intended to leverage select Ryder fleet maintenance facilities to serve as terminals on TuSimple’s Autonomous Freight Network.

“With this partnership, we believe Ryder is positioned to become a leader in the servicing of autonomous trucks,” Ryder Chief Marketing Officer Karen Jones said.

The companies said July 29 they will work to identify existing Ryder facilities for that purpose. Terminals are secure facilities that serve as the start and end points along autonomous driving routes, and they are intended to have heavy-duty trucks and trailers come and go daily.

San Diego-based TuSimple described the arrangement with Miami-based Ryder as an industry first.

“We’re seeing strong demand for access to reliable autonomous capacity from shippers, carriers and fleets,” TuSimple CEO Cheng Lu said.

Initially, the partnership will focus on Ryder’s facilities in the southern U.S. However, with Ryder’s nationwide network of more than 500 maintenance facilities, the partnership has the potential to rapidly scale, TuSimple noted.

“Making arrangements for transfer hubs and associated maintenance at the end of a run is another piece of the puzzle falling into place for longhaul driverless trucking,” Richard Bishop, an adviser to several autonomous trucking technology companies — including Locomation, Plus, Outrider and Robotic Research — told Transport Topics.

He said he expected Ryder would offer this service to the full range of automated truck operators, not just TuSimple.

A TuSimple spokesperson told TT the company was working with a number of partners “to advance autonomous trucking in order to bring best-of-breed technologies to our customers.” Ryder did not immediately respond to the question of exclusivity.

The partnership also may relieve concerns related to new infrastructure at some state departments of transportation.

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“In the highway community, some have assumed that the onus would be on state DOTs to construct transfer hubs,” Bishop said. “This may turn out to be the case in some situations, but the lion’s share of this need will be satisfied by private-sector players such as Ryder.”

TuSimple’s fleet of 50 autonomous trucks (SAE Level 4) transports freight for customers across Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Later this year, TuSimple expects to expand operations to carry freight between Phoenix and Orlando, Fla.

Ryder Supply Chain Solutions ranks No. 11 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest for-hire carriers in North America and No. 11 on the TT Top 50 list of the largest logistics companies.

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