Supply Chain Management and Self-Driving Trucking

In the vast world of logistics and supply chain management, it’s impossible to deny that trucking is an essential link. In the United States alone, trucking delivers approximately 70% of goods to retail locations nationwide. As we begin crafting more resilient processes to strengthen our production, we’re looking towards innovative new techniques and technologies to further the conversation. At Torc, our self-driving freight technology aims to stabilize the shipping journey, improve efficiency, and add flexibility across the board.

By adding autonomous trucking to the supply chain landscape, we change the conversation in a multitude of ways. From reduced costs to regained time, autonomy takes a transformational look at the way we move goods.

What is the supply chain?

The supply chain is the fundamental process by which goods are created and shipped from suppliers, to manufacturers, through to end users. The name, supply chain, comes from a time when the warehouse-to-store process was simpler. These days, this industrial network is more like an engine: it relies on countless different cogs, wheels, and belts to ensure that everything runs smoothly.

The supply chain encompasses a vast landscape of people, companies, technology, and responsibilities, all organized into segments in the greater supply network. The supply chain also includes moving raw materials and parts to manufacturing facilities, allowing those facilities to assemble and produce the finished products. The greater supply network ranges from raw material providers to big box stores; trucking typically falls in the distribution and transportation stage.

Supply chain distribution is how products get to customers. From food to medicine, distribution allows us all to enjoy fresh produce during the winter months, have access to life-saving medicine, and more. When we say the end user, we generally mean everyday shoppers in your local stores. However, the end user can also be a local business who uses that product to make their own goods. For instance, an ice cream shop owner might be the end user for a carton of cream.

Why are trucks important to the supply chain?

Trucking is a huge industry. In most states, more than half the population cites their primary profession as, “truck driver”, and stateside trucks carry more freight than all other modes of transportation. Trucking alone is responsible for roughly 72.% of the nation’s freight by weight. Needless to say, trucking is an integral link in the freight network.

Truck drivers are responsible for more than just driving, too. Truckers act as logisticians, merchandisers, account representatives, and often even own their own vehicles, meaning that many drivers are entrepreneurs of their own making. From marketing to maintenance, truck drivers carry out a complex amount of planning – including supply chain risk management.

We have the opportunity to streamline and augment the process by providing another mode of moving vast amounts of freight: autonomous trucking. Autonomous trucking will increase capacity for long-haul freight loads, allowing trucking distribution to operate at never-before-seen speeds. Companies and shippers that need to move goods over long stretches of road will benefit from this immense increase in capacity. With the Torc model of autonomous trucking, drivers can spend more time focusing on the logistics and maintenance parts of their businesses, allowing the supply chain management process to speed up even further.

With this new innovation in-hand, truckers are out of the long hours spend driving cross-country and are in their homes every night. They’ll focus on first-and-last mile pickups and deliveries while autonomous vehicles tackle the arduous task of driving the middle mile.

What happens in a supply chain disruption?

In a supply chain disruption, something snags in the greater development. Disruptions put a stop to the shipping journey, usually with a domino effect that cascades all the way down to the consumer. These kinds of issues can typically be categorized into six groups: cybersecurity, financial viability, geopolitics, man-made, natural disasters, and compliance. In one recent example, a shortage of shipping containers and COVID-19 restrictions caused one of the world’s largest distribution catastrophes to date.

However, not all production issues can be categorized so easily. Some issues come out of left field, halting logistics processes in ways that businesses, suppliers, and consumers alike may not have anticipated. In other words, when a wrench is thrown into the supply chain engine, slowdowns are inevitable. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the mass disruption resulted in an industry-wide realization that it’s no longer enough to pare down the cost of operations. Instead, we have to be proactive in facing potential issues before they occur.

Autonomous vehicles and their capabilities will greatly enhance the transportation and logistics industry by adding another safe mode of transportation to the freight industry’s toolbox. With these factors in mind, the freight industry will be able to tackle advanced complex logistical issues, work out planning challenges, and solve operations issues with greater ease.

Enter self-driving semi-trucks

At Torc, that proactivity starts with self-driving semi-trucks. Instead of focusing in on cost optimization, we’re looking towards smart, sustainable solutions that can respond quickly to unexpected situations. Self-driving semi-trucks answer supply chain issues by saving time and by reducing the cost of goods. With the price of operating lowered due to autonomy’s abilities, the cost of goods isn’t impacted by shipping expenses as much as it has been in the past. Today, shipping expenses account for a significant amount of costs passed down to consumers; in our autonomous future, shipping costs are a minor impact. With full autonomy, operating costs might decline from 46 cents per mile to as little as 31 cents per mile.

We’re developing a self-driving semi-truck that has the possibility of lowering the cost of goods across the board, speeding up delivery to manufacturing facilities, and getting goods into local stores faster than ever. In the autonomous future, the way that trucking is utilized changes completely. From allowing drivers to come home every night to improving fuel efficiency, autonomous trucking has the ability to enhance the trucking world for the better.

As we begin crafting the world of autonomous freight vehicles, we’re launching proactive thinking when it comes to distribution crunches. With the roll-out of autonomous trucking, our ability to predict and gauge the severity of supply chain issues will be greater, resulting in a future that’s smart, sustainable, and scalable.