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Michael Leizerman
Michael Leizerman
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Safety V.P. with Large U.S. Transport Company Commits to Tesla Truck

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Last month saw the unveiling of Elon Musk’s electric-powered Tesla Truck after more than a year since it was first announced, and the initial reaction of some big names in the transport business could accelerate its acceptance by the industry as a whole. Of note is J.B. Hunt, an Arkansas-based transportation logistics company that serves the continental U.S., Canada and Mexico with over 24,000 employees and 14,000 trucks—making them one the largest trucking companies in North America.

In a press release issued this week, the Sr. VP of Safety, Security and Driver Personnel for J.B. Hunt—Greer Woodruff—announced that his company has committed to purchase multiple Tesla Semi tractors equipped with Advanced Driver Safety Assist systems for use in their West Coast operations. While this might be a small initial step, there are bigger implications as Mr. Woodruff made this and other statements in support of the new technology at an industry roundtable entitled “Emerging Technologies in the Trucking Industry” that was sponsored by the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit. More importantly, Woodruff is a spokesman for the American Trucking Association (ATA) and a recognized expert on transportation safety that also serves on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA’s) Safety Advisory Committee.

While support from industry leaders and federal regulatory agencies is impressive, it’s going to take purchases to promote this new technology and potentially see a shift in what shippers choose as their vehicle of choice. So far, early indications are more than favorable as Wal-Mart placed an order for 15 of the electric trucks the day after the unveiling and Anheuser-Busch made the largest purchase order to date of 40 Tesla Semi trucks. Other large operators have also bought the truck in small numbers for testing purposes, including Ryder, DHL, regional supermarket chain Meijer, and international relocation leader JK Moving.

While there is obviously interest in seeing how these new trucks will perform, Tesla has a long way to go before their vehicles are commonplace in the trucking industry.  For one, the vehicle is not slated to go into production until 2019. Also, even though several standard features will offer a higher level of safety (Elon Musk claims his truck to be the safest, most comfortable one ever—something I touched on in a blog last month), many carriers are concerned about other issues. “Recharging time has to be quick because you’re paying a driver whether he or she is running or sitting,” says James Welch, chief executive of truckload carrier YRC Worldwide Inc. Of course he’s not dismissing the technology either, adding: “We’re going to sit on the sidelines and watch that develop.” For now, we’re all waiting to see where this truck will go.

Michael Leizerman is a truck accident attorney specializing in catastrophic multi-axle collisions. He understands all facets of truck accident litigation; including federal regulations, drug and alcohol testing and hours of service requirements. He has authored a treatise entitled Litigating Truck Accident Cases and often educates other attorneys on trucking laws and regulations. You can learn more about Leizerman & Associates by visiting their website, www.truckaccidents.com.