Is the Future of Trucking All-Electric 4 Things to Know if You Want a Career in the Transportation Industry
When a dispatcher sits down to direct and route deliveries, their directions are carried out by the company’s fleet of vehicles out on roads. Soon, those vehicles may be set for a very real change. The unveiling of Tesla’s design for a fully-electric, Class 8 semi-truck on November 16th signals the company’s intention to move into this as yet un-electrified auto sector. Freight companies, distributors, drivers and businesses in general are taking note. Crucially, the announced capability details of the Tesla semi can give dispatching students a small glimpse of what might be just around the corner.
Grads of Dispatching & Transportation Operations Programs Might See 1st Gen Electric Trucks
When Tesla unveiled its 18-wheeler in California, the company was signalling its intention to target a market that other producers have already set their sights on. The excitement over Tesla’s contender is understandable, but other industry names have also outlined plans for their own green projects. Bosch and Nikola Motor Company, for example, have already outlined designs for their own hydrogen-electric trucks—set to hit the market in 2021—while Cummins has announced a plug-in powertrain suitable for semi-trucks. It’s anyone’s guess which design or concept will win out and become an industry favourite that dispatchers will direct for years to come.
The Charging Challenge for Upcoming Electric Trucks
Ask any dispatcher with a career in the transportation industry and they will tell you Class 8 trucks need to be able to fuel up snappily. Line that up alongside the charging times that even the most modern electric vehicles require, and there’s a clear disconnect. Tesla has promised a recharge for its electric semi that takes only 30 minutes, much longer than the current handful of minutes it takes with modern high-pressure fuel pumps. In dispatching, these minutes count, so companies will need to assess the potential savings generated by charging truck batteries compared to the actual road time that looks to be lost.
A Career in the Transportation Industry Means Dealing with the Riddle of Range
Any professional who has completed a dispatching & transportation operation program will know that the range that modern diesel-powered long-haul trucks are capable of is impressive, with many able to do 1,600 kilometres on a full tank. This gives considerable routing flexibility for the dispatcher. By contrast, Tesla is only promising 800 km before a required recharge. As such, the range reduction this would bring would undoubtedly impact established dispatching and route-planning habits.
In this scenario, company policy with regards to environmental impact and even carbon taxing may become the crucial element in the mix, swinging company choices in favour of low-emissions electric trucks. To help ensure that company operations don’t suffer too much as a result, future dispatchers might need to come up with some clever route planning solutions. It could be a challenge, but one well worth it for new graduates.
Unproven Technology Will Be a Hurdle to Overcome
As it stands, the reception to Tesla’s electric semi has been warm, with big names like Walmart and Loblaw ordering vehicles that the company is promising for 2019. However, given the efficiency obstacles around charging times, a charging network that’s yet to be built, unproven battery life, and the sheer newness of these semis, it may be some time before major trucking lines buy into electric trucks. That said, given the strong growth that EVs have seen in the red-hot domestic car market, dispatchers could well be utilizing the strengths of these vehicles to wring out efficiency on roads sooner than expected.
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