Since self-driving trucks will need to transfer their loads, technology and logistics providers are building nationwide networks. Embark Trucks Inc. today announced that U.S. Xpress Enterprises Inc. has joined the Embark Partner Development Program and plans to add its terminals to the Embark Coverage Map. The partners claimed that it is the first time a carrier fleet's properties will join an autonomous truck developer's transfer point network.
“Through our partnership with U.S. Xpress, we have identified a unique opportunity to leverage U.S. Xpress' existing truck terminals, unlocking a more seamless scaling process,” said Alex Rodrigues, CEO of Embark.
“By utilizing existing truck terminals for transfer operations, Embark autonomous trucks will be able to more easily integrate with existing U.S. Xpress network assets such as last-mile driver capacity, parking, and maintenance services,” Rodrigues said.
Founded in 2016, Embark Trucks claimed that it is the longest-running self-driving truck program in the U.S. The wholly owned subsidiary of Nasdaq-listed Embark Technology Inc. is building software for autonomous trucks. It said it is focused on improving the safety, efficiency, and sustainability of the nearly $730 billion-a-year trucking market.
San Francisco-based Embark said it has partnered with some of the largest shippers and carriers in the nation, collectively representing over 38,000 trucks.
Embark transfer points to join U.S. Xpress network
In 2019, Embark unveiled its first transfer-point sites in Los Angeles and Phoenix. Transfer points are used to move freight from driverless, long-haul trucks to human-driven trucks for first- and last-mile delivery. Since developing the model, the company has conducted hundreds of hauls through these sites, refining required transfer-point features and developing process flows for important on-site activities.
Founded in 1985, U.S. Xpress said it offers a “portfolio of capacity solutions for its customers.” They include a dedicated fleet serving some of the nation's largest shippers, as well as over-the-road (OTR) and brokerage systems.
U.S. Xpress claimed that its Variant driver-first OTR division is one of the fastest-growing fleets in the country. The company's Xpress Technologies brokerage service offers capacity for shippers, as well as tools and resources for carriers to better manage and grow their business. These units have nearly 9,000 professionals helping to shape the future of the logistics industry, said U.S. Xpress.
U.S. Xpress said its nationwide terminal network can enable carriers to use its existing real estate footprint to support efficient autonomous trucking operations.
Partners to identify locations
Through this partnership, Embark and U.S. Xpress will identify priority terminals based on traffic patterns, customer needs, and technical requirements. The companies will start with two terminals in Sunbelt states, creating a clear path to opening a high-volume lane for autonomous hauling.
The two companies plan to co-develop an onsite operations playbook that captures standard processes for when autonomous trucks enter U.S. Xpress properties. They plan to address gate access, onsite vehicle movement, trailer-swap procedures, inspections, data and power management, and more.
By developing these procedures now, U.S. Xpress said it will be able to quickly integrate Embark-powered autonomous trucks as a complement to professional truck drivers within its operations.
“We’ve established U.S. Xpress as a carrier leader in autonomous trucking, and this partnership is further evidence of our intention to be an early adopter of autonomous vehicle technology,” said Eric Fuller, president and CEO of U.S. Xpress. “Through this partnership with Embark, we’re taking the next important step in planning and preparing our terminal network to support executing our autonomous strategy.”