With the all-new Tesla Semi being introduced to the transportation industry, skeptics and truckers alike are wondering if this is the right way to change the hauling game in the US. Sure, the truck could drive on its own at certain times when the driver wants to engage the autopilot, but is having a vehicle that can pull 80,000 pounds… safe and efficient enough for companies—with or without driver? Let me explain.
Most operators will worry about how much it would cost to own a truck that drives on a battery. Saving on gas consumption is good and all but, to think like a consumer, what would the overhead cost to maintain one of these trucks? How much to fix a battery, or any part on a vehicle made by Tesla? Can a battery even withstand lasting for 10-15 plus years? An average Tesla Model S battery is said to last 8 years before needing to be replaced. Companies would need to factor battery replacement cost every certain amount of years to keep the truck going.
These trucks are said to be able to drive on their own, but as you can see by the prototype images, the truck has two seats (front and rear). The truck still needs an operator. The operator needs to be able to stop at charging stations as if they’re diesel stations that are all over the place. Tesla cannot expect a driver that is picking up a load in San Antonio TX to drive all the way up to Fort Worth—the nearest charging station—prior to heading out to, say, New Mexico. This can cause down time for companies trying to deliver loads as quickly as possible. Tesla needs to be ready to have charging areas all within a 300-mile radius at least prior to putting these trucks on the road with fast charging times.
Is having a Tesla Semi viable for long haul, short haul or both? Surprisingly Both. Tesla’s main target will be large companies that can afford the trucks, and owner-operators may not be able to afford purchasing one. Tesla’s trucks will go 300-miles per charge will cost $150,000 to get into, compare to the average truck costing $80,000 for entry level. Higher-end trucks do cost around $150,000 for a Kenworth or Peterbilt, so $150,000 may not sound so bad for some. Many owner-operators will not be able to shell out that much cash without giving up an arm and a leg. Large corporations will consider these trucks if they can cut overhead cost and are reliable. The corporations that will gain
the most from these trucks will be those that cannot find enough drivers to do long-haul work, so a self-driving truck would fill in for this type of work. However, Self-driving technology is still said to be a long way away from operating autonomously without an operator inside. For an example, I had a customer who wanted to purchase more trucks for a contract to produce additional revenue for their company, but they couldn’t find enough qualified drivers that they could rely on.
Is the new Tesla truck as a big a deal as everyone is making it seem? Absolutely not. These trucks will benefit some, but not most people. The truck still needs an operator, so payrolls won’t be reduced anytime soon. I understand Tesla wants to create self-driving trucks, but they are not very close to that. As long as consumers are buying products around the country and we keep building across this nation, trucking will continue as normal. The ones who can afford Tesla will buy, and the ones who cannot – will continue to purchase the original alternatives until the country goes full 100% electric for emission purposes.
While I commend Elon Musk for trying to bring innovation to the industry, the industry is still growing with steady driver demand. In the future, when vehicles can drive on their own, then maybe we can bring up the topic of whether the Tesla Semi is a good buy for all truck owners.
This Article was written by our Transportation Specialist, Eric Covarrubias. If you have any transportation finance related questions, his direct line is (714) 985-6217.