- Tesla’s heavy-duty electric truck, the Semi, is expected to go into production in 2019.
- The trucking industry is excited about electric trucks.
- The truck’s autonomous and self-driving capacity is the most attractive feature because that enables drivers to rest and eases their burden to find parking spaces, said Sean Chenault, a truck driver, and manager.
- Tesla’s technology also provides a way to ease the truck-driver shortage, said a trucking CEO.
Tesla has stepped up to enter the trucking space, and the industry couldn’t be more excited.
The Tesla Semi, the automaker’s heavy-duty electric truck that was unveiled a year ago, is expected to go into production in 2019 and has secured orders from a number of major companies, such as Pepsi, Walmart, and Albertsons.
Tesla’s electric truck is “a good thing for the trucking industry as a whole,” said Sean Chenault, who has been in the industry for 16 years, taking roles from trucker to manager. While Semi’s many features are attractive — such as zero emissions and the ability to reach higher speeds than diesel trucks — the most appealing trait is the semi-autonomous driving and potential fully self-driving capacity, according to Chenault.
“Having autonomous vehicles, you don’t need to pay a driver, and you don’t need to worry about hours of service,” said Chenault. He currently works at Quality Carrier in Nashville, Tennessee.
Many trucker drivers told Business Insider they hate the hours-of-service rules, which for decades has limited them to 11 hours of driving in a 14-hour window. Because of the rule, drivers have to disrupt their sleep patterns more frequently and sometimes have to park during rush hours to beat the clock, said Dena Wolpert, a truck owner who bought her vehicle in 2002.
Autonomous trucks can run by themselves, which enables drivers to take a rest in their vehicles and eases the burden to find parking spaces, Chenault said. Driver’s workloads would be more focused on the loading and delivery at the starting and ending points, he added.
While not requiring drivers is a little bit of a fantasy, Tesla’s technology at least provides a way to move cargo while reducing the number of people needed, said John Wilbur, CEO of Roadmaster Group, an Arizona-based specialized transportation company.
“We are struggling to find drivers now,” he said. “If autonomous drivers are means to eliminate that deficit, it’s a good thing.”
But people within the industry also have concerns over the Tesla Semi’s autonomous features. Michael Nichols, a truck owner in Cross Plains, Wisconsin, told Business Insider he worries about the safety issues that may occur when heavy-duty autonomous trucks share the road with other vehicles.
“If the truck is not reliable enough, there will be crashes,” he said.