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Will Electric Powered Trucks Save the Trucking Industry?

For several years now the trucking industry has been forced to cope with widespread issues. Fuel prices rising, a lack of qualified drivers, and federal regulations including the Electronic Logging Mandate have stifled profits. Trucking companies of all sizes want to reduce the volatility of the trucking market so they have more control over their budgets. Experts say electric powered trucks have the capacity to improve the trucking industry. But could this technology actually protect against several of the issues the trucking industry is reeling from? Take a look at the benefits of electric semi trucks to find out. 

Electric Truck Market

Right now the electric truck market is just ramping up. Currently there are three preproduction models of Class 8 semi tractors:

  • Tesla Semi
  • Nikola One
  • Thor Trucks ET-One

Each of these Class 8 tractors are capable of current weight limitations of a max 80,000 pounds. Where they differ is on the specifications. For example, the ET-One is an all-electric truck with a battery powered range of 300 miles. The Tesla Semi, another fully electric semi, has a range of up to 500 miles. Meanwhile the Nikola One, which is a hydrogen-electric tractor, features a range of up to 1,000 miles. These new trucks are expected to be in production mode in 2019 for the Tesla Semi and ET-One, while the Nikola One will hit the commercial markets in 2020.

Improving the State of the Trucking Industry

The trucking industry is changing fast thanks to advanced technologies ranging from safety features to fully electric semis. These trucks are going to alter the way the industry operates, and most industry professionals see this as a positive evolution. We can expect to see shipping rates and freight rates fluctuating during this time of change.

Impact of Driver Productivity

One of the biggest questions for electric semis is how this type of technology will reduce operating costs. Part of this involves driver productivity, as the more miles a driver can cover the more money they can earn for a company. Along with being electric, these new trucks are designed with flatscreen panels in place of dials and gauges. They are also equipped with automated driver safety features. All together these features are expected to decrease the stress associated with operating a big rig. Less stress and an easier to navigate truck is expected to boost productivity.

Increase in Driver Wages

Right now there is a driver shortage that is creating a competitive wage market noted by massive sign-on bonuses and benefits. Electric trucks won’t fully alleviate the driver shortage issue at this moment, so the competitiveness of wages remain. However, we could also see truck drivers needing advanced education in trucking technology to help them operate these types of trucks. This could increase wages based on the amount of training that is required of the job type.

Saving Money on Diesel

What is the largest portion of any trucking company’s expense report? Fuel tickets add up to 30 to 40 percent of a driver’s cost per mile. It is the biggest segment of trucking operational costs. As a result, reducing fuel expenses has always been a goal for carriers. All-electric trucks like the Tesla Semi and hydrogen-electric Class 8 trucks like Nikola One do not require diesel fuel for operating the trucks. Does this mean fuel companies will cut out nearly half of their expenses simply by moving to electric powered trucks?

Theoretically, yes, but they also need to account for set-up costs to be able to run this e-powered fleet. On face value, this looks like a massive economic gain for trucking companies of all sizes. This could save those smaller carriers or companies in debt by giving them a financial boost, but only if they are able to afford to adopt all-electric trucks and technologies.

Improved Driver Performance

Ultimately, those trucking companies who choose wisely to invest this extra income in their own fleets will have the capacity to improve driver performance. Through automated safety features on these new electric powered trucks, carriers are also winning in the areas of driver safety and performance. These features include autopilot features that automatically center the driver on the roadway. This helps drivers avoid collisions. The new trucks are also designed to be more aerodynamic. As a result, they feature a low center of gravity that aids in rollover prevention.

 

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