Werner partners with Kodiak for autonomous trucking lane

September 29, 2022

Ryan Witkowski

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Add another name to the list of large carriers dipping their toes in the autonomous trucking water.

On Sept. 29, Kodiak Robotics Inc. announced an agreement with Omaha, Neb.-based Werner Enterprises to operate a 24/7 long-haul autonomous trucking lane. Kodiak says the goal of the collaboration is “to showcase how efficiently autonomous trucks can be used with a transfer hub model at truckports.”

Kodiak’s transfer hub model is fairly straightforward. The company’s trucks – accompanied by a human safety driver at all times – transport freight autonomously along the highway portion of a designated corridor. The Kodiak truck takes the load to a truckport located along route, where the trailer is dropped off and another is picked up.

From there, a local company driver picks up the original trailer and delivers it to its final destination. These local drivers are also responsible for getting loads from shippers to the truckports for the Kodiak trucks to pick up. According to Kodiak, the truckport model maximizes the amount of time the truck spends in self-driving mode.

In August, Werner began a weeklong pilot program with the Mountainview, Calif.-based self-driving truck firm. A Kodiak truck completed four tours involving eight unique trips between Dallas and Lake City, Fla. A total of 152 hours of driving time were completed during the one-week pilot with 100% on-time delivery performance.

Don Burnette, founder and CEO of Kodiak Robotics, said the relationship with Werner could result in more autonomous trucking lanes.

“Werner’s vision for incorporating autonomous trucks into their future operations demonstrates a fundamental understanding of where autonomous technology fits within the trucking industry,” Burnette said in a statement. “The Kodiak Driver is designed to do the often-undesirable highway portions of long-haul routes, allowing drivers to handle the deliveries that let them sleep in their own beds at night. We look forward to continuing our collaboration with Werner and introducing new permanent lanes together.”

Part of that commitment toward the future of autonomous trucking includes Werner joining Kodiak’s Partner Deployment Program. The program helps carriers establish autonomous freight operations and integrate Kodiak’s self-driving system into their fleet. Chad Dittberner, senior vice president of van/expedited with Werner, said the hybrid model will help his company maximize their efficiency while keeping safety top of mind.

“Working with Kodiak enables us to efficiently incorporate new technologies into our business while giving us a competitive edge,” Dittberner said in a statement. “We’re eager to establish the hybrid model of drivers and ongoing autonomous lanes to create new and unparalleled levels of efficiency while staying focused on Werner’s value of putting safety first.”

Founded in 2018, Kodiak Robotics delivers freight for its customers along six routes in Texas and Oklahoma. In addition to Werner, the company has partnerships with U.S. Xpress, 10 Roads Express and CEVA Logistics. LL

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