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Germany opens first stretch of ‘electric highway’ for trucks

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A specially designed hybrid truck travels along a 6-mile section of the Autobahn near Frankfurt, Germany, running on electricity from the experimental eHighway system. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Way back in 1982, Eddy Grant encouraged us all to “rock down to Electric Avenue.”

In more recent times, the trucking industry has increasingly set itself on the road to a more electric future, with battery life being one of the main technological hindrances, especially since charging stations are still few and far between.

Germany has moved forward with its own version of Electric Avenue with the development of an eHighway system by which trucks can draw electricity from overhead cables. On May 7, the the German government introduced the system on a roughly 6-mile stretch of the Autobahn near Frankfurt, between the city’s airport and a nearby industrial park.

This is the first test of the system, which has been in development since 2010, on a public highway in Germany. Smaller-scale tests have been done in Stockholm, Sweden, in 2016 and in Carson, California, near the Port of Los Angeles, in 2017.

Currently, one truck is operating on the system, with four more trucks expected to join it by 2020. The eHighway system is also being installed in two other locations, as well, and will be tested through 2022. The German government will decide whether to expand the system.

To get this far, Germany has spent just under $15.7 million on installing the system and invested another $77 million in designing the hybrid trucks that will use it.

The system was designed by Munich-based Siemens AG, is somewhat similar to overhead electric systems used with trains and cable cars. The hybrid trucks were built by Volkswagen AG’s Scania truck division.

The trucks are fitted with conductor rods, called pantographs, on the top of the cabin. Sensors detect when the overhead wires are available, and the pantographs are then extended upward. The truck must be traveling at 90 kilometers per hour (56 mph) or less for the connection to be made.

Once connected, the truck draws from the 670-volt direct-current cables, and the truck runs entirely on electricity. Meanwhile, the truck’s batteries are recharged so that once disconnected, the truck can continue to run on electricity before switching over to diesel.

Siemens has estimated that a truck owner could save $22,370 on fuel for every 100,000 kilometers (62,137 miles) driven. The big motivator for the German government, however, is its potential environmental impact by reducing CO2 and other emissions.

Slashing carbon emissions from transportation is a key part of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. Truck transportation, meanwhile, is the world’s fastest growing source of oil demand, according to the International Transport Forum. Road transportation of goods is projected to account for 15% of the increase in global CO2 emissions until 2050.

Germany has set goals to cut greenhouse-gas emissions by 40% by 2020, compared with 1990 levels, and up to 95% by 2050.

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Truck Parking Near Me opens 2 overnight, monthly locations in Chicago area

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A survey of major trucking companies and over the road drivers confirms that there is a need beyond crisis levels within a 40 mile radius of the Chicago area. (The Trucker file photo)

CHICAGO — Truck Parking Near Me has opened overnight and monthly truck parking for commercial trucks in Gary, Indiana, and Bellwood, Illinois.

Truck Parking Near Me President Mike Sicuro said his company did a survey and determined that the Chicagoland/Gary area is in the top five areas of the country where overnight truck parking is at a crisis level.

“Our surveys of major trucking companies and over the road drivers confirm that there is a need beyond crisis levels within a 40 mile radius of the Chicagoland area and we have chosen to expand here, where the need is the greatest” Sicuro said.  “In 2017, the Indiana Department of Transportation reported that almost 38,000 trucks traveled daily near our Interstate 94 location and the same year the Illinois DOT reported that 6,000 trucks used the I-290 daily near our Bellwood/Chicago parking location. This information was influential in our decision to build truck parking in the area to accommodate the overnight parking need.”

In the same report, the U.S. Department of Transportation analysis of the area estimated that the Illinois and Indiana portions of the Chicago Metropolitan Area (which includes Gary) shipped and received about 427 million tons of freight worth $723 billion via truck in 2017. The US DOT reports that the tonnage has increased slightly since 2017.

Sicuro said recent surveys by the American Transportation Research Institute reported that the average over-the-road driver spends over one hour a day searching for overnight parking. This translates into $5,000 a year in lost revenue for a single OTR driver.

Take $5,000 per driver per year, he said, with 48% of 1.9 million long haul truck driver losing one hour of driving time, this number translates into almost $5 billion per year, which is the 0.5% of the total transportation cost across the United States.

“Truck Parking Near Me has strategically found parking to meet the demands of the trucking industry and will be looking for other opportunities outside the Chicagoland area to expand,” Sicuro said.

The Gary parking facility is located at 1500 North Colfax Avenue. Approaching from State Road 912, take the 15th Street exit and go east on Western 15th Avenue to Colfax Street. Approaching from I-94, take the Burr Street exit, go north on Burr Street to West 15th Avenue, turn west onto Colfax Street and go to West 15th Avenue.  A driver needing to get to downtown Chicago for a pick up or delivery, the Colfax location is only 40 minutes from downtown Chicago. The parking lot is lighted, gated and requires a reservation for daily parking or contract for monthly.

The Chicago parking facility is near Chicago O’Hare at 220 North 25th Avenue, Bellwood, Illinois, and like the Gary location, requires a reservation. The Chicago location is also lighted, gated and requires a reservation for daily parking or contract for monthly.

Sicuro said Truck Parking Near Me is adding parking facilities throughout the Gary and Chicago area with a priority on locations where it is often most difficult for truckers and trucking companies to find overnight parking.

Drivers can reserve their daily space at www.truckparkingnearme.com or call Mike Sicuro directly at 708-426-4511 for monthly parking.

 

 

 

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UPS makes minority investment in autonomous driving company TuSimple

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UPS' work with TuSimple began with the goal of helping UPS better understand the requirements for Level 4 Autonomous trucking in its network. (Courtesy: TUSIMPLE)

ATLANTA — UPS Thursday said its venture capital arm UPS Ventures has made a minority investment in autonomous driving company TuSimple.

Together, both companies are testing self-driving tractor trailers on a route in Arizona to determine whether the vehicles can improve service and efficiency in the UPS network. This is an extension of the ongoing commercial relationship between UPS and TuSimple in which UPS has purchased transportation services from TuSimple, according to Chief Strategy and Transformation Officer Scott Price.

The work with autonomous driving company TuSimple began with the goal of helping UPS better understand the requirements for Level 4 Autonomous trucking in its network, Price said. L4 Autonomous means the vehicle’s onboard computer is in complete control at all times, eliminating manual intervention. Currently, however, laws regulating L4 Autonomous driving require a driver in the vehicle at all times to take over operation if needed.

Throughout the ongoing tests, UPS has been providing truckloads of goods for TuSimple to carry on a North American Freight Forwarding route between Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona. The company initiated self-driving service in May 2019, with a driver and engineer in the vehicle. TuSimple and UPS monitor distance and time the trucks travel autonomously, safety data and transport time.

“UPS is committed to developing and deploying technologies that enable us to operate our global logistics network more efficiently,” Price said. “While fully autonomous, driverless vehicles still have development and regulatory work ahead, we are excited by the advances in braking and other technologies that companies like TuSimple are mastering. All of these technologies offer significant safety and other benefits that will be realized long before the full vision of autonomous vehicles is brought to fruition – and UPS will be there, as a leader implementing these new technologies in our fleet.”

Founded in 2015, TuSimple’s mission is to bring the first self-driving truck to market, to increase safety, decrease transportation costs and reduce carbon emissions. TuSimple develops technology that will allow shipping companies to operate self-driving class 8 tractor-trailers – those that exceed 33,000 pounds and typically have three or more axles.

UPS contracts with third-party trucking companies during its peak shipping season. TuSimple believes it could cut average purchased transportation costs by 30%.

“We are honored by UPS’s strategic investment and their vote of confidence in TuSimple, this proves their commitment to staying at the forefront of innovation,” said TuSimple’s Founder, President & CTO, Xiaodi Hou. “TuSimple is confident that it can accelerate bringing the first self-driving truck to market to increase road safety.”

UPS’s tests with TuSimple are part of an advanced technology evaluation for vehicles in the UPS Global Smart Logistics Network. UPS is investing in Internet of Things (IoT) technology, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and advanced analytics to increase fuel efficiency and improve customer service to ensure that UPS remains the shipper of choice.

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NexTraq launches solution to lock cell phones, tablets while driving

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Available in the United States and Canada, MobileBlock is a small, self-adhering pod that is mounted in the vehicle. (Courtesy: NEXTRAQ)

ATLANTA — NexTraq, a Michelin Group company, is launching the new NexTraq MobileBlock ─  in partnership with SafeDrivePod ─ a solution that ensures drivers’ smartphone and tablet screens are locked during driving. This new tool is a great for managers to help enforce policies restricting unauthorized use of company-issued tablets and smartphones limiting distractions.

“NexTraq’s MobileBlock helps to stop smartphone-based distractions behind the wheel,” said Todd Hanna, vice president of sales for NexTraq. “In many states and municipalities, using smartphones and tablets while driving is against the law. It can be dangerous. MobileBlock is a solution that can keep the driver and crew safe while at work.”

Available in the United States and Canada, MobileBlock is a small, self-adhering pod that is mounted in the vehicle. An app is downloaded from the App Store or Google Play to the tablets or smartphones used by drivers of the vehicle. The software shuts off all access to apps while driving.  Emergency call and navigations apps are still usable with the tool installed.

NexTraq, a Michelin group company, is a part of Michelin’s Global Services and Solutions business line. The group boasts over 2,000 employees, serving more than 70,000 customers, with over 850,000 vehicles utilizing telematics solutions, worldwide. From tracking and reporting to routing and scheduling, NexTraq is more than just a provider of vehicle and asset tracking solutions. The company is a valued GPS fleet and mobile workforce management partner for its customers.

 

 

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