Autonomous freight grows as source of 3rd-party capacity


Kodiak Robotics and Werner Enterprises hauled autonomous freight four times round-trip between Dallas and Lake City, Florida, over 152 consecutive hours, the latest evidence that robots could replace human drivers on unpopular long-haul routes.

With commercialization of driverless trucks still years away, Kodiak slipped its trained safety drivers in and out of the Peterbilt 579 cabs as the hours-of-service clock ticked down to the 11-hour limit of operation. The trucks didn’t need a break. Their human supervisors had no choice.

Kodiak generated revenue from the experiment but made no money. Learning is more important than turning a profit at this point, CEO Don Burnette told FreightWaves. Kodiak is also running pilots with U.S. Xpress, 10 Roads Express and CEVA Logistics.

Valuing experience over profit in autonomous trucking “We did transport the drivers to the locations where they needed to be rested and ready to go, which adds obvious overhead to the cost of running this type of operation,” Burnette said. “But really the goal of this pilot was the operational demonstration.”

By that measure, the pilot succeeded. The autonomous trucks recorded 100% on-time delivery performance across eight unique trips. Werner prepared trailers for Kodiak self-driving trucks to pick up on both ends. The carrier’s local drivers completed the first-mile pickups and last-mile deliveries.

“Working with Kodiak enables us to efficiently incorporate new technologies into our business while giving us a competitive edge,” Chad Dittberner, Werner’s senior vice president of Van/Expedited, said in a news release.

Read more: FreightWaves