A Trucker's Perspective on Autonomous Trucks - The Road to Autonomy

A Trucker’s Perspective on Autonomous Trucks

Lee White, Founder & President, LM White Consulting joined Grayson Brulte on The Road to Autonomy podcast to discuss scaling autonomous trucking operations.

The conversation begins with Lee explaining why after a 38-year career at UPS he decided to joined the autonomous trucking industry. In 2018, Lee took his first ride in an SAE Level 4 autonomous truck and it changed the way he looked at trucking forever.

I remember standing outside that truck and looking back at it and saying; you know I am never going to be able to look at trucking the same way.

– Lee White

Lee’s insight into how large truck fleets operate is absolutely crucial to scaling revenue generating autonomous trucking operations. As the traditional trucking companies operate on extremely slim margins with tight timeframes for deliveries. For example, J.B. Hunt currently operates at a 6.4% margin, while Werner operates at a 4.8% margin. These margins leave little room for error.

Enter, autonomous trucks. Autonomous trucks will enable traditional trucking companies to expand margins and utilize them on routes that benefit their operations the most. While professional drivers handle the other routes.

Autonomous trucks and professional truck drivers will not compete for jobs. Instead, they will compliment each other, shore up the supply chain and enable trucking companies to optimize their operations.

I don’t ever see an environment where you don’t have drivers.

– Lee White

The optimization will come from integrating autonomous trucks, intermodal, dedicated and over-the-road operations. Autonomous trucks at first will be deployed on high-density lanes with repeatable routes.

In order for autonomous trucks to scale, there has to be infrastructure — truck terminals. These terminals will most likely be shared, yet there are no standards as it relates to how the infrastructure has to be built to accommodate autonomous trucks to launch and land.

Furthering the conversation Grayson and Lee discuss how the autonomous vehicle market compares to the autonomous trucking market from a revenue and total addressable market (TAM) standpoint.

Wrapping up the conversation, they discuss if Volvo Autonomous Solutions and Daimler become the Waymo and Cruise of autonomous trucking.

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Recorded on Friday, May 19, 2023