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USPS tries out robot trucks to replace team truckers


The United States Postal Service (USPS) has announced that they are testing out driverless truck technology for hauling mail on a more than 20 hour route usually reserved for team truck drivers.

On Tuesday, May 21, driverless truck startup TuSimple revealed that they have been awarded a contract to haul mail for USPS during five round trips between distribution centers in Phoenix, Arizona and Dallas, Texas. The contract is part of a two week pilot program that starts on Tuesday.

TuSimple says via press release that they plan to run a series of self-driving trucks for 22 hours each, including overnight driving, along the I-10, I-20 and I-30 corridors through Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, during the pilot program.

A truck driver and safety engineer will remain on board the truck during the two week trial, TuSimple says. The human truck driver will be responsible for driving the truck on surface streets but will leave the interstate driving to the self-driving truck technology.

TuSimple says that the 22 hour trip is ideal for their driverless truck technology because the route would normally be driven by team truckers, who they say are “challenging to recruit due to overnight driving requirements, the need to share close quarters with another person and a significant truck driver shortage.”

The company says that they hope to free truckers from the burden of long haul trucking so that they can focus their efforts on “the shorter, more dynamic and closer to home routes.”

Following the conclusion of the pilot, USPS will consider whether it wants to continue testing self-driving trucks for hauling mail. Bloomberg reports that USPS spends more than $4 billion per year on trucking costs and that these costs are increasing because of a shortage of truck drivers (note that trucking groups like OOIDA argue that the truck driver shortage is really a driver pay and turnover problem).

You can take a look at the TuSimple driverless truck technology in action during a rainstorm in Arizona last fall. The company boasts that the truck travelled hub to hub with zero disengagements.


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