U.S. Xpress has added another company to the list of those it’s working on to make autonomous trucks a reality. It has joined the Embark Partner Development Program and plans to add its terminals to the Embark Coverage Map.
According to Embark, this partnership marks a significant milestone by adding a fleet's properties into an autonomous truck developer’s transfer point network.
The Chattanooga, Tennessee-based truckload giant is also working with other autonomous-truck developers, including TuSimple and Kodiak.
Embark said it pioneered the transfer point model in 2019 when the company unveiled its first sites in Los Angeles and Phoenix. Transfer points are used to move freight from driverless, long-haul trucks to driver-enabled trucks for first- and last-mile delivery. Since developing the model, Embark has conducted hundreds of hauls through these sites, refining required transfer point features and developing process flows for important onsite activities.
Through this partnership, Embark and U.S. Xpress will identify priority terminals based on traffic patterns, customer needs, and technical requirements. The companies will start with two terminals in Sunbelt states, creating a path to opening a high-volume lane for autonomous hauling.
The two companies plan to co-develop an onsite operations playbook that captures standard processes for when autonomous trucks enter U.S. Xpress properties. Expected solutions will include gate access, onsite vehicle movement, trailer swap procedures, inspections, data and power management, and more.
“We’ve established U.S. Xpress as a carrier leader in autonomous trucking, and this partnership is further evidence of our intention to be an early adopter of autonomous vehicle technology,” said Eric Fuller, president and CEO. “Through this partnership with Embark, we’re taking the next important step in planning and preparing our terminal network to support executing our autonomous strategy.”
Alex Rodrigues, CEO of Embark, said the partnership gives it a “unique opportunity to leverage U.S. Xpress’ existing truck terminals, unlocking a more seamless scaling process. By utilizing existing truck terminals for transfer operations, Embark autonomous trucks will be able to more easily integrate with existing U.S. Xpress network assets such as last-mile driver capacity, parking, and maintenance services.”
The Latest in U.S. Xpress' Autonomous Partnerships
In early 2021, U.S. Xpress announced an investment in TuSimple, and later in the year it was one of the first fleets to place reservations for the TuSimple/Navistar autonomous truck, expected to be available beginning in 2024. The company has been working with TuSimple since 2019. The fleet also said it would help to develop TuSimple’s Autonomous Freight Network.
Earlier this year, Kodiak Robotics and U.S. Xpress teamed up to launch Level-4 autonomous freight service between Dallas-Fort Worth and Atlanta using Kodiak’s self-driving trucks. U.S. Xpress was set to become the first cornerstone truckload partner in Kodiak’s Partner Deployment Program.
U.S. Xpress also announced earlier this year that it will work with Aurora Innovations.