In a joint effort with trucking automation company TuSimple, the USPS is putting driverless trucks to work hauling mail. The Post Office is using automated trucking on a 1,000 mile route between Phoenix and Dallas. Jennifer Smith reports at The Wall Street Journal:
The move comes as investors and vehicle makers are spending millions on trucking automation.
The two-week pilot starting Tuesday will use big rigs supplied by autonomous trucking firm TuSimple to haul trailers on five round trips between distribution centers, the company said. The roughly 22-hour trip along three interstate highways is normally serviced by outside trucking companies that use two-driver teams to comply with federal regulations limiting drivers’ hours behind the wheel.
“This run is the sweet spot of where autonomy is valuable,” said Chuck Price, chief product officer at TuSimple, which has offices in the U.S. and China. “The vehicle can continue operating without the hours-of-service restrictions of a human driver.”
The Postal Service, which has been losing money for several years as letter volume has declined, is trying to restrain operating costs and is seeking ways to cut fuel expenses, improve truck safety and use its fleet more efficiently.
“We are conducting research and testing as part of our efforts to operate a future class of vehicles which will incorporate new technology to accommodate a diverse mail mix, enhance safety, improve service, reduce emissions, and produce operational savings,” a postal service spokeswoman said in an email.
Proponents of autonomous vehicle technology believe long-haul trucking, where operators say they have difficulty recruiting and retaining drivers, is a promising market for expanded use of the technology. Driverless vehicles have already been deployed in controlled industrial settings such as mining operations.
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