Why Tesla Wants a Piece of the Commercial Trucking Industry
As Adam “MCA” Yauch’s bass line fuzzed through the speakers, and the crowd—encouraged by Tesla Motors (TSLA, +1.49%) CEO Elon Musk to “jump over the barriers”—flooded the airplane hangar just outside Los Angeles, there was talk of an impending revolution. It certainly felt that way to onlookers. Excited energy crackled in the crisp California air.
In truth, the revolution—or evolution, depending on who is talking—was already underway. But that didn’t stop Musk from making his grand entrance in the sleek Tesla Semi, an all-electric heavy-duty truck that could well disrupt the commercial trucking industry.
Dozens of companies, from truckmakers like Daimler and Navistar to startups like Chanje and Embark—plus Uber’s Otto and Waymo, the erstwhile Google self-driving project—are pursuing what they believe is the next generation of trucking. Their vision includes electric powertrains, autonomous driving technology, and oodles of wireless connectivity—a vision now shared, naturally, by Tesla and Musk.
Tesla Semi: The electric-auto maker’s bid to build a better truck.
But above all, it’s business opportunity—and trucking is the physical embodiment of a thriving economy. Trucks moved more than 70% of all U.S. freight and generated $676 billion in revenue in 2016, according to the American Trucking Associations. Some 33.8 million trucks were registered for business purposes in 2016. Almost 4 million of them were categorized Class 8, denoting the largest freight trucks.