Author Topic: Self-Driving Trucks: Will They Disrupt Railroads  (Read 3298 times)

Broeb22

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Self-Driving Trucks: Will They Disrupt Railroads
« on: May 09, 2018, 01:51:33 PM »
Does anyone think that self-driving trucks, if they ever get here, would seriously challenge the current ground transportation supply chain? Could self-driving trucks eventually gain a cost advantage on rail?



Cardboard

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Re: Self-Driving Trucks: Will They Disrupt Railroads
« Reply #1 on: May 09, 2018, 01:53:57 PM »
Rail will always have the advantage in terms of cost per mile due to physics.

Cardboard

LC

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Re: Self-Driving Trucks: Will They Disrupt Railroads
« Reply #2 on: May 09, 2018, 02:31:45 PM »
Rail will always have the advantage in terms of cost per mile due to physics.

Cardboard

Pretty much. Trucks will continue to handle excess demand, short-distance logistics, etc., but the bulk will still be transported by rail for reasons Cardboard mention.
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Grant

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Re: Self-Driving Trucks: Will They Disrupt Railroads
« Reply #3 on: May 09, 2018, 04:39:49 PM »
Could self-driving trucks eventually gain a cost advantage on rail?

I'm not familiar with the costs in these industries, but they cannot beat rail at energy efficiency. Platooning only results in about a 20% reduction in drag (http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/241442-mit-study-driverless-truck-platoons-will-save-fuel-money-especially-tailgate). Rail is more efficient mostly because of the coefficient of rolling resistance of the best pneumatic tires on tarmac is about 2.3x that of rail.

A fully-loaded semi uses about half its power overcoming drag, and about half overcoming rolling resistance.

rb

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Re: Self-Driving Trucks: Will They Disrupt Railroads
« Reply #4 on: May 09, 2018, 05:56:02 PM »
There was a thread on this last year about self driving trucks doing convoys. The conclusion: it's not even close.

WayWardCloud

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Re: Self-Driving Trucks: Will They Disrupt Railroads
« Reply #5 on: May 10, 2018, 04:46:50 PM »
I hear you guys on the vehicle energy efficiency comparison but I'm also thinking if you use trains you still need a truck to carry merchandise from the factory to the train and then another one at arrival from the train-yard to the destination. I imagine there are additional costs involved in moving cargo on and off trains and trucks. If those are big enough could it make sense to skip the whole "train" step even at higher cost per mile driven just to save the hassle of loading and unloading?

it's a question I've been asking myself in regards to Berkshire's investments in railroads.

Grant

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Re: Self-Driving Trucks: Will They Disrupt Railroads
« Reply #6 on: May 11, 2018, 12:20:19 AM »
Trains, trucks and ships can use standardized shipping containers so loading and unloading isn't necessary. Though yes I'm sure there's still some switching costs involved, making rail more attractive for longer trips.
« Last Edit: May 11, 2018, 12:22:14 AM by Grant »

StubbleJumper

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Re: Self-Driving Trucks: Will They Disrupt Railroads
« Reply #7 on: May 11, 2018, 04:26:33 AM »
Could self-driving trucks eventually gain a cost advantage on rail?

I'm not familiar with the costs in these industries, but they cannot beat rail at energy efficiency. Platooning only results in about a 20% reduction in drag (http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/241442-mit-study-driverless-truck-platoons-will-save-fuel-money-especially-tailgate). Rail is more efficient mostly because of the coefficient of rolling resistance of the best pneumatic tires on tarmac is about 2.3x that of rail.

A fully-loaded semi uses about half its power overcoming drag, and about half overcoming rolling resistance.


Interesting.  So, if you accept the proposition that the speed of a driverless truck could be dropped from 65 mph (110 kmh) to 50 mph (80 kmh) without really affecting delivery times, you would save what, 20% in fuel use from the lower speed?  And then in a convoy you are saying that there would be another savings from reducing drag?

That 4-to-1 fuel advantage that WEB referenced in years past might drop to 2.5-to-1 or something like that?

Interesting.


SJ

Hielko

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Re: Self-Driving Trucks: Will They Disrupt Railroads
« Reply #8 on: May 11, 2018, 04:34:13 AM »
Trains, trucks and ships can use standardized shipping containers so loading and unloading isn't necessary. Though yes I'm sure there's still some switching costs involved, making rail more attractive for longer trips.
You still have to move the containers from the trucks to trains and/or vice versa. That requires manpower, time and machinery. Besides that, adding a train step might add considerable delay to delivery times as well. It's not like cargo trains run every 10 minutes to every destination, and a lot of destinations might also add a bit of a detour. So adding the train step will only make sense if the two destinations are sufficiently far apart.

globalfinancepartners

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Re: Self-Driving Trucks: Will They Disrupt Railroads
« Reply #9 on: May 11, 2018, 04:42:12 AM »
It will be interesting to see how the use of public infrastructure / implied government subsidy of the trucking industry shakes out vs. the owned and privately built and maintained rail infrastructure.  Obviously there are road use and diesel taxes on trucking currently, but it is nowhere near the level it will likely be in the future when states and governments are even more indebted and rail lobbyists are pointing to these driverless convoys clogging up the public roadways, blocking on-ramps for a thousand feet at a time, etc...

That said, I certainly feel better about owning the railroad out in the big wide open west, vs an eastern-only railroad.  As mentioned, long distances help and there are some pretty long distances to travel from western ports, mines, etc...

Rail will never have a place delivering your Wayfair furniture to your town, but it will likely be delivering the container of Wayfair furniture from the port of long beach to the distribution centers for a long time.
« Last Edit: May 11, 2018, 04:46:05 AM by globalfinancepartners »