TuSimple, the self-driving trucking company that went public earlier this year, has partnered with Ryder as part of its plan to build a freight network that will support its autonomous trucking operations.
Under the agreement announced this week, Ryder’s fleet maintenance facilities will act as terminals for TuSimple’s freight network. TuSimple’s so-called AFN or Autonomous Freight Network is a collection of Shipping routes and terminals for autonomous trucking that will span the United States by 2024. UPS, which had taken a minority stake in TuSimple before going public, haulier US Xpress, Penske Truck Leasing and Berkshire Hathaway’s grocery and grocery company McLane Inc. were the first partners in the network.
TuSimple’s AFN comprises four parts, including its self-driving trucks, digitally mapped routes, freight terminals and a system that allows customers to monitor autonomous trucking and track their shipments in real time.
Ryder’s facilities will primarily serve as strategic terminals where TuSimple trucks can be serviced and, if necessary, the sensors used in the self-driving system can be calibrated. In some cases, the terminals can be used as a hub for a smaller operator who may wish to collect cargo. However, according to TuSimple President and CEO Cheng Lu, this is not supposed to be a hub-to-hub system where its customers would come and collect cargo.
“These trucks need to be serviceable, serviceable and have higher availability, which is important to every forwarder, regardless of whether they are autonomous or not,” said Lu.
Small shippers and forwarders can use these terminals to pick up and drop off freight. However, Lu emphasized that TuSimple brings the freight straight to the customer’s distribution centers in most cases, especially with large operators like UPS. The Ryder facilities work as nodes or stops on its network so that TuSimple can reach more customers over a larger geographic area, Lu added.
The partnership will begin gradually. TuSimple has 50 autonomous trucks in its fleet that, together with a security guard at the wheel, move cargo for customers in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. The partnership will initially leverage Ryder’s facilities in these areas and eventually expand to the company’s 500 maintenance facilities in the United States.
TuSimple said it expects to expand operations to the east coast and move cargo between Phoenix and Orlando later this year. TuSimple has ordered around 25 new trucks, which will be added to the fleet according to availability.