Logistics, Supply Chain Management, Transportation
The Tesla Semi-trailer truck press launch on November 17th, 2017 wowed a hanger full of tech enthusiasts who likely have never stepped foot inside a logistics office or an actual semi themselves. I mean come on, when was the last time you heard a logistician cheer and scream in that manner? The first of its kind electric semi boasts the following impressive claims:
  • 500 miles of range on a full charge at maximum weight
  • 30 minute charge time to 80% capacity
  • 0-60mph in five seconds with an empty trailer
  • 60mph in 20 seconds with a max load of 80,000lbs
  • A one million mile warranty
  • No brake pads to replace
  • No transmission to replace
  • Nuclear explosion-proof glass
  • Zero emissions – the big one!
All resulting in Tesla claiming for their semi to have a true cost-of-trucking at least 20% lower than a traditional diesel truck. However, things get interesting when platooning, or convoying as Elon Musk calls it, is taken into account. What is Platooning? Put simply: platooning is how semi-autonomous vehicles will disrupt the logistics industry, driving down prices all the way down the supply chain to the end user, laying off many truck drivers in the process. Platooning trucks and trailers is similar to rail transport. The driver-equipped semi in the front acts as a locomotive, while autonomous trucks are pulled behind using radio frequencies acting as rail cars. This leads to the cost savings associated with not requiring a driver, their subsequent salary and benefits, to operate every truck. That said, while Musk claims Tesla has already developed this technology and is confident it will result in 10x higher highway safety for truckers and commuters, there are many unclear details as to how platooning will operate. My questions include:
  • Will the platooning semis have to be equipped with drivers? That would defeat the purpose of autonomous vehicles
  • If not, what will the cabins look like? Will there even be a cabin? You wouldn’t really need one…
  • What is the maximum number of trailers that can platoon behind one driver equipped semi?
  • Will Megacharge stations have the ability to handle the semi numbers associated with multiple platoons? Will this cause excessive wait times at Megacharge stations?
In platooning, or “convoying”, the Tesla Semi is said to poses half the true cost-of-trucking of a diesel truck. Musk claims a platoon of Tesla electric Semis can beat the price of rail, while the convoy would remain far more flexible, not being tied to a network of railways. This is not particularly fair to diesel trucks, as it is only a matter of time until they too will gain the ability to platoon. In reality, many limitations regarding platoon trailer size will likely be caused by government restrictions, as we all know that technology moves exceptionally faster than government regulation. Also, don’t expect to see a convoy of any number of semi-autonomous trailers blocking up your city’s downtown core any time soon. Platoons will only be utilized for long-haul trips on major highways and possibly in remote areas, at least in its primary stages. Drivers will certainly be required for shunting purposes, in a way acting as tug boat operators within the distribution centre lot and for last mile delivery if the convoy is to split up. Some have proposed integrated offices in the cabin, so that drivers who are being platooned (and are therefore not driving) can perform logistics documentation and paperwork. However, I have a hard time believing 4PL logistic companies will pay to train all their drivers to perform work already performed by their centralized logistics coordinators.

Logistics, Supply Chain Management, Transportation

Hyperloop pod transportation has gathered plenty of attention in recent years where magnate propelled capsules are pushed upwards of 1,200 km/h with an average speed of 700km/h. Additionally, Hyperloop transportation is completely automated, which promises to eliminate delays and overbooking. While consumers are quick to fantasize of the benefits of high speed Hyperloop travel, the ramifications of Hyperloop freight cargo will be felt throughout the supply chain, and in consumer’s wallets.

There are currently 10,000 trucks en route from Toronto to Montreal every day, with delivery lead time totaling half a day. A similar Hyperloop will take half an hour, while contributing to a reduction in highway traffic in the process.




Hyperloop’s fast speed and promised reliability will support lean and Just-In-Time inventory practices. Organizations will have the ability to hold less inventory, therefore decreasing their required warehouse footprint, payroll, operational and overhead costs.


Lower product costs for consumers and businesses

With the decrease in inventory costs highlighted above, consumer and industrial goods prices will decrease. These cost savings will ripple down the supply chain, all the way to the wallets and budgets of consumers and businesses.

A decrease in traffic along the 401, 7 and 417 highways

If high-speed TransPod travel becomes widely adopted, a decrease in commuter and freight traffic on the highways commuting between Toronto and Montreal or between Toronto and Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa, and Ottawa and Montreal (depending on whether TransPod Hyperloop or Transpod One meet the required Transport Canada regulations). This will directly lead to a decrease in highway transportation between those destinations. Transpod travel will subsequently force traditional trucking and rail companies to lower their rates and lead to shorter delivery lead time throughout all modes.

Increase in Tourism

A decrease in travel time will benefit the domestic tourism industry. Time savings resulting from the alleviation of airport security, the elimination of delays and of course, the significantly faster speed of Transpod travel, will motivate business and domestic tourists to displace themselves for more business, weekend and holiday trips.


Environmental Benefits

Mass-transit Transpod pods are propelled electronically at low speeds: during arrival and departure, then magnetically for the majority of the time. Resistance (air) is continuously vacuumed out of the tube using a passive system, leading to ultra-low aerodynamic drag. This results in a highly efficient and environmentally friendly mode of long-range transportation.

Truck Drivers Should Not Be Affected

As the proposed Canadian Hyperloop route is unlikely to be completed prior to 2025, truck drivers are most likely to already have been disrupted by driverless trucks in the form of platooning.

In Canada, two Hyperloop start-ups are competing for regulatory rights from Transport Canada to construct the first domestic route.

TransPod Hyperloop has proposed an eastern Canadian route, back-and fourth from Toronto to Montreal. The trip is estimated to take 30 minutes.

Hyperloop One’s proposed Canadian route runs from Toronto, through Ottawa, ending in Montreal. Time estimates are as follows:

  • Toronto to Ottawa in 27 minutes
  • Ottawa to Montreal in 12 minutes
  • Toronto to Montreal in 39 minutes

Photo Credit: Hyperloop One, TransPod Hyperloop