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Locomation picked up a third customer for its human-guided autonomous trucking systems

The Pittsburgh AV company's unique approach is one that's likely a more palatable transition to autonomy to established transportation companies like Christenson.

Christenson Transportation truck. (Courtesy photo)
Call this deal a zoom forward for a homegrown company bringing autonomous tech to America’s highways.

Autonomous trucking company Locomation announced at the Truckload Carriers Association conference this weekend that it had secured a new customer for its service through an eight-year contract with Springfield, Missouri-based transportation provider Christenson Transportation. Founded as a brokerage firm in 1979, Christenson now has trucks operating in all 48 contiguous states in the US, and specializes in hauling what it calls high-value, high-risk and time-sensitive freight.

This news comes only a couple of weeks after Locomation shared that it had renewed its contract with Wilson Logistics in addition to maintaining its existing deal with PGT Trucking.

Instead of trucks operating with full autonomy, Locomation’s signature tech instead has an autonomous truck following behind a human-operated one in a convoy. The new deal with Christenson is another sign that the future of transportation is heading toward autonomy, even for Midwestern, family-owned companies: While Locomation is not the only company advancing the autonomous trucking space, its unique human-guided autonomy approach is one that’s likely more palatable to established transportation companies like Christenson.

Through the use of Locomation’s proprietary scheduling systems and its autonomous relay convoy (ARC) technology, Christenson Transportation will be able to maintain an operating model with trucks running for over 20 hours per day. In total, 500 of its trucks will be equipped with the ARC technology, operating across five separate autonomous relay networks, a press release said.

“We are thrilled to partner with Locomation to offer autonomous trucking services to our customers,” said Don Christenson, president of Christenson Transportation, in a statement. “We chose Locomation because we’re convinced they are bringing to market the safest and most viable turnkey model to enable us to deploy autonomous technology in the near term. For Christenson, this is an incredible opportunity to establish a strong early mover presence in the lanes we’ve chosen to launch in and enable us to double our market share.”

Until fully autonomous trucks are ready to hit the market, it’s a pretty good alternative. With the help of Locomation’s tech, Christenson will increase its total capacity by 52% and reduce its empty miles by 50%, per the company. The integration of autonomous trucks into Christenson’s fleet holds environmental benefits as well. Locomation will help improve the company’s fuel efficiency by 18% and significantly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. That dovetails with findings from an independent environmental study of Locomation’s business approach that the company shared last year.

“We are delighted to enter this partnership with Christenson Transportation,” said Çetin Meriçli, cofounder and CEO of Locomation. “With our system in place, Christenson will be primed to boost capacity while saving money, time, and fuel in the short term. Christenson will be at the forefront, able to grab the opportunities that come with operating a supply chain custom built for autonomous trucks.”

The improved efficiency afforded by Locomation’s human-guided autonomy — which enables one driver to operate the lead truck while the other rests in the following truck — also holds financial benefits for both Christenson and Wilson Logistics. The former expects to quadruple its bottom line net profit thanks to a 30% reduced operating cost through the use of autonomy, while the latter expects to capture $524 million in annual operating revenue.

Sophie Burkholder is a 2021-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments.
Companies: Locomation

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