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Locomotion Video Transcript

Annc1

Welcome back to Freight Waves NOW on this Thursday morning. We’ve got our next live guest ready to go, all the way from Locomation, we’re welcoming Finch Fulton to the studio. Thanks for joining us this morning.

Finch Fulton

Yeah, thanks for having me.

Annc2

Good to have you Finch. We’re going to start off by talking about a little bit of what you guys do at locomotion and how you guys are improving the lives of drivers. Give us a little bit of background first.

Finch Fulton

Sure well for anybody that’s not familiar with us, we are an American autonomous trucking company with a realistic plan for deployment that takes an evolutionary approach to the market. We have a two truck linked convoy model with two human drivers and two autonomous relay convoy systems or automated trucks which allows the drivers to work as a team and to conduct nearly continuous operations around the country in compliance with all federal regulations.

Annc2

So Finch, welcome to the show. It’s good to see you again and speak with you again. Explain a little bit more about this. You got two trucks, you’ve got two drivers, how does it go continuously and how is it improving the actual drivers reducing their stress and improving their job.

Finch Fulton

Yeah, so with our approach it’s a human-led convoy so you have two trucks that drive in a row and when they get on the freeway the driver in the lead truck stays in control the driver in the following truck goes into the sleeper berth and they’re able to log off and stop using their hours of service. So this means as you know, drivers get 11 hours a day to drive they can switch off and use both of the drivers hours of service time to keep that convoy going and to keep driving the freight towards uh its final destination. So with this approach you can go twice, as far twice as fast, while following all the speed limits, carrying twice as much and delivering twice as much revenue for drivers, for shippers, for carriers. You’re talking about carriers getting a higher level of profit shippers getting reduced fees and so it lowers the prices for them and drivers get to generate more and so they take home more pay and by doing the back end organization not only do drivers get to bring home more pay they the routes are organized so they get home every night and so you have drivers that are dealing with pretty difficult lives on the road. If you can organize it better on the back end you can get them home every night you can make their life significantly better and suddenly you start addressing some of the driver turnover issues that’s plaguing the industry as a whole. So this approach can really go a long way towards improving the driver’s quality of life and keeping drivers around longer which has secondary benefits, you know a driver that has more experience is a safer driver. This overall approach can really reshift the market in the dynamics for drivers.

Annc2

It’s excellent and I appreciate the message that you guys are putting out there because you know there’s been a lot of talk about our drivers you know are resistant to this are they scared of losing their jobs etc. So I like that and we’ll dive into that some more but I want to make sure I mean there’s also the capacity issue right that this solves. If you’re running these trucks 20, you know continuously aren’t you in effect almost doubling capacity in the United States say it were adopted by everybody?

Finch Fulton

Yeah absolutely because drivers aren’t having to stop to rest for you know 10 hours a day they’re not pressed on time they’re not trying to speed to beat the clock they’re able to work within compliance of hours of service and not have to go searching for parking for an hour every day you know spending all this time idling burning fuel it increases the ability for them to, it generates twice as much capacity from the system that already exists just because it’s a smarter way to use technology to augment the ability of the human drivers and help them earn more. So overall the entire dynamic of the system you organize it this way you can make significant impacts for the whole ecosystem not only for the drivers but for everyone involved.
It’s really a clever way to start using technology to improve the lives of drivers. Instead of having technology jump in to try and replace the driver.

Annc1

So let’s talk about that technology aspect you said you’ve got the leader and you’ve got the follower how does that connection between the two work in detail and where do you kind of find the pain points if there are any of the system.

Finch Fulton

Yeah so it is connected vehicle technology which has been around for some time that allows the vehicles to drive closely enough together and use some of these automatic messages to you know engage the brake to have the dynamic speed changes to make sure you know the vehicles don’t get too close but can get that really tight fit so that no vehicle wants to cut in and so they can get some of the aerodynamic benefits that you get from drafting just the same way you see in Nascar where you get the cars drafting right off of each other. So it has real-world impacts, real world effects and its proven technology that’s been out there for some time. You know there have been some updates to how we do it but this aspect isn’t new this aspect has been tested you know the federal government’s been testing some of this some of that part of the technology since 1991. It’s just been a matter of finding the right combination of technologies to make it worth deploying at scale and we’re finally seeing with all the other different pieces of technology in the ecosystem developing it’s time to deploy this technology and start seeing the benefits it can bring. So it’s not just the one technology it’s the whole ecosystem that makes it come together.

Annc1

So let’s talk about some of those deployment spaces who is using this tech right now and what has their feedback been so far from it?

Finch Fulton

Yeah, well so our first customer is Wilson Logistics and we’ll be deploying with them by the end of next year. PGT trucking will see its first deployments in 2023, but if you’re talking about just the technology, so you have the technology that helps keep the trucks close together and we’ve seen commercial deployments for those for a number of years.. Volvo is still one that’s developing their version of the technology but you still have things like the uh lane keeping assist so obviously the following driver in order for the you know person in the second truck to be able to go into the sleeper berth it not only has to keep the speed and the distance between the vehicles but be able to follow both the lanes and the truck in front of it and that’s new technology. That’s something that we haven’t seen deployed elsewhere especially at scale and so combining these technologies together will allow locomation to take this evolutionary approach to the market. We’re going to be the first on the road with any of these technologies able to deploy safely commercially and at scale again starting with our first customer at the end of next year. So it’s really an exciting time and an exciting opportunity to be first to market and to be able to take your time to do it safely in a way that makes sense and it keeps humans as part of the situation.

Annc2

Excellent stuff Finch and let me ask you this man. Just like every guess I have like 25 different questions I want to ask all at the same darn time. So I get the technology and how it works. When Kayleigh asked about pain points, what jumped into my mind was this okay so now you know we have the premise that there’s a human driver in both one is in the birth off-hours. How do you get to the point where that is legally off hours? Is that a question, does that question make sense?

It does make sense. Okay the answer is that FMCSA is already pretty clear about it. The FMCSA has said that the driver of the vehicle can be a human or a machine. It’s the other duties of a driver that they haven’t sold for yet. So if the driver can be a human or a machine and you have team driving situations where there’s already plenty of guidance with how you would take two human drivers in one truck and how that works in terms of their hours of service. You can apply it so that you have two human drivers and two automated trucks and that’s essentially two sets of teams. Right, four drivers, two humans, two machines and so by combining these you’re able to use the same rules that apply to team drivers today. It’s not that different, you’re just one of the drivers is a machine now.

Annc2

Now, okay so can I have a follow-up please [You take your follow-up] I’ve got like 24 more follow-ups. No serious, the next one so okay, so deployment of this is a little bit different than when you talk about other autonomous applications right where it’s just a single vehicle. You you’ve got the one following the other. Does that make it easier as far as mapping out what’s going on and the truck’s ability to react to certain things because it’s really reacting to the human driver up in front of it. Does that make it easier to map this out?

Finch Fulton

It dramatically simplifies the challenge because in all situations you have a human driver that’s trained and that has a CDL that’s able to take command of the situation and if things get really dicey or you see bad weather coming up the lead driver just calls the following driver wakes them up and then they take control of their truck. So that if it starts to have a significant storm that’s you know any driver would want to take control and drive more safely you can still call that driver in but the fact of the matter is when you look at things like inspection, maintenance, repair, dealing with law enforcement officers dealing with edge cases everyone else has to solve for all of these random one-off situations. We just have a human driver that’s trained and that has the CDL that handles it. So the challenge has already been accomplished and drivers have been accomplishing these challenges and taking care of them for decades. So we’re not having to resolve things. We’re able to bring the drivers that’s trained and ready to go into the situation to solve for it and ultimately we’re training our system to get smarter in the future but by taking this evolutionary approach you know we can keep drivers at the center of the solution.

Annc1

So Finch, let’s finish it up this morning with one last question here. Obviously you guys have some of those early adopters who have put their faith in this technology already with you guys. What is the general consensus around the rest of the industry and how does your technology kind of relate with the other fully autonomous or semi-autonomous but the single driver models that are already talking about coming to market as well.

Finch Fulton

Yeah well certainly we’re developing our own solo driverless solution where we’ll have our own autonomous trucks but we’re able to use the real world experience in the real world data to inform the system so that we’re not just creating a shiny toy and then figuring out how to apply it to the market. We’re having a ground-up approach to how our technologies can solve for real challenges that are out there. So obviously, we work together collaboratively with others in the automated trucking industry. We’re just going to be able to go make money and to deploy and to start having the benefits of our technology be felt first when they’re going to be waiting for FMCSA to come out with a new rule or to figure out some sort of alternative means of compliance for how to handle everything a human driver does in the situation.

Annc1

Awesome, thank you so much for joining us this morning. Fnch it’s great to hear about what you guys are doing at Locomation. We’ll catch up with you again soon. Have a great rest of your day.

Finch Fulton

Absolutely thanks for having me.

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