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U.S. Xpress Enterprises Inc. announced it made a “significant” investment in autonomous trucking company TuSimple and that CEO Eric Fuller was named to TuSimple’s executive advisory board.
The carrier described the partnership as another example of its intent to transition from a traditional trucking company to a true digital transportation solutions provider. It did not disclose the precise amount of the investment.
“We’re passionate about finding innovative solutions to industry challenges, and investing now will give us a clear advantage when this technology matures in the years to come,” Fuller said in a release. “Additionally, the executive advisory board is bringing together market-specific insight from across the industry to help drive the development and adoption of this important technology.”
Eric Fuller (Business Wire)
One industry analyst noted TuSimple’s partnerships not just for hauling freight but with investment components as well says a lot about the maturing of the automated vehicle trucking industry in general.
“U.S. Xpress is highly discriminating and an industry leader in technology,” Richard Bishop, a principal at Bishop Consulting and an adviser to autonomous vehicle company Plus, told Transport Topics. “Having them supporting TuSimple is a big positive. Although U.S. Xpress noted a ‘sizable investment,’ it’s impossible to know the true significance of their investment unless the amount is published.”
At the same time, a U.S. Xpress spokesman told TT the carrier is “working with a few companies on autonomous technology and we buy from Navistar Inc. [a TuSimple partner and truck maker].”
“We have seen fleet partnership announcements from other companies such as Einride, Ike [acquired by Nuro], Locomation and Outrider,” Bishop said. “Generally, though, large fleet customers who are working with truck AV developers don’t have a strong motivation to be named. They lean toward quietly working the business, performance and logistical issues for as long as it takes to prove the business case.
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“Most of the leading truck AV developers have testing partnerships with key fleet customers. As for the fleets, it’s in their interest to work with multiple AV developers if they have the resources. These dynamics shouldn’t be any great surprise, they just reflect the nature of the startup industry generally, as well as the trucking industry.”
U.S. Xpress noted in its recent economic forecast that although the industry always will have a need for professional drivers, shortages caused by reduced CDL school graduates and the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse are impacting the industry in the near and long term. It added autonomous trucks bring additional options for its shippers and will “fold into a robust portfolio of solutions.”
U.S. Xpress has been working with TuSimple since 2019 and recently began testing the autonomous technology on select lanes for some of its major customers. From this testing, it can gather vital information and benchmark safety and efficiency standards that will help bring the technology to market safely and reliably, according to the Chattanooga, Tenn.-based company.
U.S. Xpress Enterprises Inc. ranks No. 24 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest for-hire carriers in North America and No. 31 on the Transport Topics Top 50 list of the largest logistics companies.
The Jan. 21 partnership announcement came shortly after Werner Enterprises Inc. and Schneider announced similar arrangements with TuSimple, which has offices in China and San Diego.
Today we announced the members of the TuSimple Executive Advisory Board (EAB). The newly established EAB brings together a mix of world-class industry and regulatory leaders in transportation to help accelerate the adoption of autonomous trucks. pic.twitter.com/8QunpmU2aG— TuSimple (@TuSimpleAI) January 21, 2021
Meanwhile, TuSimple added other partnerships over the past year with truck makers.
In September, TuSimple and Traton Group, Volkswagen AG’s heavy-truck unit, announced a partnership to develop SAE Level 4 self-driving trucks, calling it a first in Europe. Traton also took a minority stake in TuSimple.
In July, TuSimple and truck and engine maker Navistar International Corp. announced a strategic partnership to co-develop SAE Level 4 self-driving trucks targeted for production by 2024.
In November, the boards of directors at Traton and Navistar approved a definitive agreement to merge as part of a transaction valued at $3.7 billion.
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