Author Topic: Self-Driving Trucks: Will They Disrupt Railroads  (Read 3502 times)

SharperDingaan

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Re: Self-Driving Trucks: Will They Disrupt Railroads
« Reply #10 on: May 11, 2018, 06:07:11 AM »
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.

Self-driving trucks will disrupt the trucking industry, but it's not going to displace rail.

In the supply-chain use, finding/retaining long-haul drivers has always been a problem. Most would expect that the operating cost of a self-drive will only be marginally lower than for a truck+driver (dont cut cost if you dont have to); but it will go a long way to alleviating the driver problem.

In the mning use, driver cost is the issue (200K+ to drive a 300 ton Heavy Haul truck). It's boring work, you need a lot of them, and its prone to injuries through inattention. Driverless is both a real cost-reducer and safety-enhancer. There are also advantages to deep hard-rock mining where temperatures are high & cooling systems are at/past practical limits.

SD
« Last Edit: May 11, 2018, 09:16:12 AM by SharperDingaan »


oddballstocks

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Re: Self-Driving Trucks: Will They Disrupt Railroads
« Reply #11 on: May 11, 2018, 06:09:58 AM »
The closer and closer you get trucks to operate like trains the more they'll need dedicated lanes and roads.  And then suddenly trucks aren't efficient anymore.

One of the biggest advantage for a truck is they operate on public roads.  They spend some in gas taxes, but that's it.

There are two other factors:
1) The rolling efficiency.  Stop by a rail museum sometime and examine a train wheel on a track.  For how large the wheel is the contact area is about the size of a dime.  And it's steel on steel.  It doesn't take much to roll.  Now compare that to the giant rubber tires on a truck, that travel on cement or asphalt roads full of bumps.
2) Trains are already employing diesel-electric engines, they have been for decades.  The engine is a diesel powerplant (essentially a large generator) that powers electric motors that turn the wheels.  The driving is done with electricity.  This is much more efficient than the trucks we have.  Beyond this railroads are investigating how to employ hybrid engines to further reduce energy costs.  And not that long ago much of the railroad was electrified. 

Consider that a typical train has 100-140 cars.  Imagine a truck convoy that long, it might stretch 1.5 miles unbroken.  How do you exit the highway, pass, do anything? 
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Dustin T

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Re: Self-Driving Trucks: Will They Disrupt Railroads
« Reply #12 on: May 11, 2018, 06:38:54 AM »
I would almost expect them to work together more in the future. Shipping containers are pretty standard and at the point that trucks are self driving I expect the exchange of the shipping container to the truck could also be done without an operator. This would shift more of the long haul trucking to train. I think the logistics make this a little more complicated now with the need to schedule around people. I believe the future favors rail.
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StubbleJumper

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Re: Self-Driving Trucks: Will They Disrupt Railroads
« Reply #13 on: May 11, 2018, 06:52:08 AM »
The closer and closer you get trucks to operate like trains the more they'll need dedicated lanes and roads.  And then suddenly trucks aren't efficient anymore.

One of the biggest advantage for a truck is they operate on public roads.  They spend some in gas taxes, but that's it.

There are two other factors:
1) The rolling efficiency.  Stop by a rail museum sometime and examine a train wheel on a track.  For how large the wheel is the contact area is about the size of a dime.  And it's steel on steel.  It doesn't take much to roll.  Now compare that to the giant rubber tires on a truck, that travel on cement or asphalt roads full of bumps.
2) Trains are already employing diesel-electric engines, they have been for decades.  The engine is a diesel powerplant (essentially a large generator) that powers electric motors that turn the wheels.  The driving is done with electricity.  This is much more efficient than the trucks we have.  Beyond this railroads are investigating how to employ hybrid engines to further reduce energy costs.  And not that long ago much of the railroad was electrified. 

Consider that a typical train has 100-140 cars.  Imagine a truck convoy that long, it might stretch 1.5 miles unbroken.  How do you exit the highway, pass, do anything?


A couple of observations:

1) You wouldn't need a convoy of 100 trucks because you could just as easily have 15 convoys of 7 trucks.

2) If trucks ever get automated, there is an excellent opportunity to *decrease* their individual weight because there's no meaningful labour advantage to having one truck instead of two.  That might actually reduce the damage that heavy trucks are currently doing to the road.  Bullshitting just a little bit more, charging a per-mile toll for trucks becomes relatively straightforward if they are fully computerized and that might even give states the opportunity to put in place time-of-day road pricing (ie, if you want to send your autonomous truck down the turnpike at 8am, it'll cost you 40 cents per mile, but if you do it at 1am, it'll be 1 cent per mile).


SJ

PullTheTrigger

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Re: Self-Driving Trucks: Will They Disrupt Railroads
« Reply #14 on: May 11, 2018, 07:37:08 AM »
Quote
1) You wouldn't need a convoy of 100 trucks because you could just as easily have 15 convoys of 7 trucks.

Yes, the term the industry is using is "truck platooning." A small number of vehicles "linked" together with autonomous systems. There is a lead vehicle that controls all the following vehicles. Still lots of testing to do. It would likely just be a small number of vehicles (less than 10), but I'm sure they'll figure out the optimal number based on the roads, etc.

https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/research/truck_platooning/




Cardboard

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Re: Self-Driving Trucks: Will They Disrupt Railroads
« Reply #15 on: May 11, 2018, 07:47:51 AM »
"There are two other factors:
1) The rolling efficiency.  Stop by a rail museum sometime and examine a train wheel on a track.  For how large the wheel is the contact area is about the size of a dime.  And it's steel on steel.  It doesn't take much to roll.  Now compare that to the giant rubber tires on a truck, that travel on cement or asphalt roads full of bumps.
2) Trains are already employing diesel-electric engines, they have been for decades.  The engine is a diesel powerplant (essentially a large generator) that powers electric motors that turn the wheels.  The driving is done with electricity.  This is much more efficient than the trucks we have.  Beyond this railroads are investigating how to employ hybrid engines to further reduce energy costs.  And not that long ago much of the railroad was electrified."

Very true. Plus, a train has a few engines and a very large number of wagons (50:1?).

They have tried 3 trailers behind a truck and it was banned due to becoming highly unstable: wind, turns, etc. Whether it drives on its own or not, this issue does not go away.

Cardboard

oddballstocks

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Re: Self-Driving Trucks: Will They Disrupt Railroads
« Reply #16 on: May 11, 2018, 09:03:51 AM »
In PA and OH they allow trucks to carry three trailers.  I see this all the time on the turnpike.

The issue with trucks is their cargo capacity is so much smaller than a train car.  Look at this: http://business.tenntom.org/why-use-the-waterway/shipping-comparisons/

A truck can carry 26 tons, a train car 100 tons, so four trucks to a train.  Or where a train gets an effective 200 mpg.

The advantage of a truck is always short haul, and that they can navigate cities quicker.  If you need to move things in bulk, and need to move them fast you put them on a train.

I guess where I'm struggling on this is why is an automated chain of 20 trailers better than a train of 100 train cars (eq of 400 trucks) operated by two people? On a train the labor is so tiny compared to the cargo.  On current trucks I get it, you have a single driver for a single trailer.  But to out edge a train seems like a crazy high hurdle to get over, and that's if trains never improve.  I mean truck companies send their trucks on trains if it's over a certain distance.
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SharperDingaan

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Re: Self-Driving Trucks: Will They Disrupt Railroads
« Reply #17 on: May 11, 2018, 10:00:09 AM »
Trains are stuck to rails, and go only from point A to point B. Trucks are not, and it's why we have inter-modal transport.
You build a regional distribution centre next to a rail line, and transport containers to/from port via rail. Unload the containers, unload the contents, & distibute to warehouse &/or sales locations by truck. Where possible automate the warehousing to maximize reliability and minimize cost. The 'last mile' truck isn't driverless, as cost exceeds benefit.

The main cost driver for self-drive trucks is JIT inventory requirements. Pay more for the greater control and reliability of trucks, and offset the cost against lower working capital costs. The more limited contents of 3-4 trucks 2-hours late because of border delays will not shut down a production line, the much bigger quantities in a delayed train will. Take the truck drivers out, to further improve control and reliability.

The big benefit is greater safety on the highways.
Fewer fatigued long-haul drivers and more fresher local drivers, with rail and self-drive doing more of the long-haul.   

SD




Spekulatius

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Re: Self-Driving Trucks: Will They Disrupt Railroads
« Reply #18 on: May 13, 2018, 06:14:00 AM »
I think we will have self driving trains before self driving trucks, since trains have already a dedicated lane, by definition. It should be much easier to implement and in fact there are already several systems operating.
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StubbleJumper

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Re: Self-Driving Trucks: Will They Disrupt Railroads
« Reply #19 on: May 13, 2018, 07:03:41 AM »
I think we will have self driving trains before self driving trucks, since trains have already a dedicated lane, by definition. It should be much easier to implement and in fact there are already several systems operating.



I don't doubt that at all. But, what will be the potential savings?  A typical train might move 10,000 tonnes of freight and it requires how much labour to operate?  Are there three guys in a train these days?  So, if you eliminated those three guys, you'd save perhaps $100/hour each, or $300/hour total?  So, you might save $300 for every 600,000 tonne-miles?  Those savings don't strike me as a game changer.

Eliminating human error from railway operations, however, is probably a good thing.


SJ