Walmart Concept Trucks Draw Skepticism

In late 2012, Walmart Canada unveiled its newest concept fleet design.  The “supercube” truck will haul up to 44% more cargo, and could potentially save the company 3,000 loads per year, said Andy Ellis, Walmart Canada’s senior vice-president of supply chain and logistics.

The  Mississauga-based Innovative Trailer Design (ITD) touts the trucks offer more cargo capacity with less truck.

“It’s no bigger or longer than a traditional truck,” Ellis told Canadian Manufacturing. “I would not want to put a longer, wider, higher truck on the road. By increasing what we can put inside the vehicle, you actually take trucks off the road.”

According to Canadian Manufacturing:

The supercube weighs 6,618kg (14,590lb) or three percent more than a typical trailer, which tips the scales at 6,450 (14,220lb).

The trailer has 144 cubic metres (5,100 cubic feet) of space across two separate levels. This is roughly 30 percent more than a traditional trailer. The split-deck design means there is a 40cm (16in) height difference between the front deck (above the trailer’s front wheels) and the back deck. The inside height is 3.2m (126in) for the main deck and 2.8m (110in) for the upper deck.

The trailer comes with a scissor lift capable of handling 6,800kg (15,000lb), which means a forklift can be used to stock the front section of the trailer. Since the trailer is lower to the ground than models currently in use, a bogie airbag lift system raises the height of the trailer to meet standard 1.2m (4ft) docks.

Walmart commissioned Mississauga to design a truck to better fit the company’s needs, and the design appears to be a slam dunk.

Walmart Ready To Roll Out Expanded Fleet of Supercubes
Image Credit: Walmart Canada

Walmart Canada currently has two tractors and four trailers designed by Mississauga.  The trucks are part of a year-long pilot program, a requirement for the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO).

Walmart has been awaiting the Canadian Ministry’s approval to roll out more supercubes.

After nearly a year of waiting, it appears that Walmart has been given the green light to roll out its fleet.

“The government has modified the permit conditions to allow for different types of equipment to be run,” said Michael Buna, senior transportation manager at Walmart Canada.

“What the government has done is look at the 60ft-6in length of a trailer and looked at straight-decks, drop-decks, tri-axles, reefer units, and they’ve opened it up to allow for different types of equipment to be run. So the government has done the due diligence to prove there are many different types of equipment you can run in this model.”

According to Canadian Manufacturing, Ellis is most excited that reefers supercubes have been added to the approved list.

“We’ve met all of the criteria the government asked of us within the pilot. We are obviously working with the government to extend the pilot and put more trucks on the road and encourage other retailers or other haulers to do the same,” said Ellis.

“We have four permits at the moment, we’re talking to the government about how we can get more, and we’re looking at those changes to the regulations around the permit, around the different types of equipment,” said Ellis.

“It would be ideal if we get a reefer, because if you look at the type of business a reefer supports, it’s fresh food. It’s all about freshness and quality and being agile and getting fresher product to the stores. So the more efficient we can be in getting product to the stores, the better for the customers. Absolutely, reefers will be where we want to go.”

Walmart reports that the supbercubes have increased both financial and environmental savings, with a 24% reduction in cost of delivering goods. 

“It’s just common sense. It’s a seven-foot longer truck. It has more product on it, so it is going to take you a little longer just to get the product off. It all depends on how it’s loaded, whether it’s 15 minutes or two hours depends on whether it’s hand-balmed or palletized freight.”

Ellis said that although supercubes carry bigger, heavier loads, the design of the supercube is more fuel efficient than standard trucks.

“You would have to burn a whole lot more fuel to offset the 44 percent more freight on the back of the truck. So a heavier truck will burn more fuel, but when you’ve got 44 percent more freight on the back of it, then you’d have to go a long way before it becomes inefficient,” he explained.

“One of the reasons for doing this is we never, ever weigh-out with the type of product we carry. Our trucks are never anywhere near the weight limit of a standard tractor-trailer unit, so it’s not as though we are putting the truck under any more strain than it is designed to be used for. It’s just making optimum use of the cube on the behind it. You’re not making the truck work any harder than its capability.”

For now, Walmart is working to get the supercube approved to run on all Canadian highways, but it’s not likely we will see supercubes in the U.S. anytime soon.

“As I understand it, there is no permit in the US that allows you to run a 60ft trailer anywhere. So until they get a permit, they’re not allowed to put them on the road,” said Ellis.

To read more about the supercube, follow this link to Canadian Manufacturing.  

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