Transportation and logistics provider Werner Enterprises Inc. sees a future in self-driving trucks, and is betting on the outcome with an investment in the autonomous trucking technology company TuSimple, the company said today.
Omaha, Nebraska-based Werner has also made past investments in modernizing technology for the industry, launching a unit in 2020 to develop new solutions that optimize operations for drivers, shippers, and carriers. By making an equity investment in San Diego-based TuSimple, the company said it was bolstering its commitment to that Werner Edge initiative and continuing to improve the lives of its professional drivers, enhance over-the-road safety measures, and create sustainable shipment efficiencies.
Deploying fully autonomous trucks would also replace professional drivers, changing the economics of the transportation industry and addressing a long-standing labor shortage. However, Werner President and CEO Derek Leathers said the investment was more about improving those employees’ jobs than replacing them. “At Werner, our professional drivers are the backbone of our organization, and they work day-in and day-out to keep America moving,” Leathers said in a release. “Staying current with emerging technologies helps us remain focused on improving our drivers’ lives, keeping them safer, providing our drivers with best-in-class equipment, and helping them achieve long-term careers in the trucking industry.”
The investment will build a tighter relationship between Werner and TuSimple, allowing the trucking fleet to “take an active role in developing technologies that will enhance the lives of our professional drivers and customers,” Daragh Mahon, Werner’s EVP and CIO, said. “Technology continues to play a significant role in how freight is transported,” Mahon said in a release. “Through Werner EDGE, we are committed to changing all of our company’s systems, as well as aligning with organizations that are driving improvements in safety, visibility, cost and productivity.”
However the tension between autonomous vehicles and driver jobs plays out, the picture will become clear soon. TuSimple has already run tests with the U.S. Postal Service, hauling USPS trailers between DCs in Phoenix and Dallas while carrying a driver and engineer in the cab as required by current laws. The company plans to start running driverless truck routes in 2021, and bring its vehicle to market in 2024 through a “self-operating freight network” created in a partnership with UPS, Penske Truck Leasing, U.S. Xpress, and McLane.