Atlanta, Georgia-based truckload carrier Ascend (CCJ Top 250, No. 143) is partnering with Volvo Autonomous Solutions (V.A.S.) to begin testing autonomous, long distance linehaul options within its network, becoming the first asset-based truckload carrier to reserve capacity for V.A.S.’s hub-to-hub autonomous transportation offering.
Ascend Dedicated – the firm’s newest arm being built on Dedicated Transportation Solutions, which Ascend acquired last year – will pick up customer loads and transport them to V.A.S. hubs in Dallas and Houston, Texas. From there, V.A.S. will complete the onward linehaul movement to its destination hub from which Ascend drivers will transport loads to their final destinations.
The Autonomous Transport Solution offered by V.A.S. is based on a Transport as a Service (TaaS) model and encompasses the entire hardware, software and services required to provide scalable autonomous freight capacity for highway applications.
“We are excited to initiate the integration of DTS into Ascend as we seek to grow our dedicated contract carriage business,” said Michael McLary, CEO of Ascend. “[Ascend Dedicated President Scott Stowers] the founder of DTS, and his staff bring vital experience and creativity to Ascend’s growth and innovation plans, as exemplified by this new partnership with Volvo. We are thrilled to have them as part of Ascend’s leadership team.”
Stowers said the partnership with V.A.S. aligns with Ascend’s continued efforts to transform the regional truckload sector "by leveraging technology, building density, and offering driver-friendly routes and policies, all with the goal of providing unparalleled service to our customers.”
Whether it is additional capacity, keeping drivers closer to home or improving road safety V.A.S. President Nils Jaeger said autonomy holds enormous potential to transform the transportation industry. "At Volvo Autonomous Solutions, we believe that the way to autonomy is through collaboration and creation of solutions that are tailor-made for the specific needs of our customers," he said. "We are excited to collaborate with Ascend to better understand carrier needs and challenges while bringing all the benefits of autonomy to their business.”
In the future, McLary said the V.A.S transportation solution could combine the service and transit time benefits afforded by point-to-point truckload movements with the linehaul advantages of intermodal rail transportation.
"Innovating to serve the exacting requirements of our customers’ increasingly sophisticated supply chains while providing our drivers with desirable jobs is one of the inspirations behind the formation of Ascend," he said. "Exploring the use of autonomous linehaul transportation is just one example of how we are seeking to achieve our goals.”
The V.A.S. TaaS autonomous hauling solution includes a vehicle purpose-built for autonomous driving, a virtual driver, required infrastructure, operations and uptime support as well as a cloud solution that controls the transport system and manages logistics flows. The solutions developed by V.A.S. are customized for each customers’ needs and intended to make their operations safer, productive and sustainable.
Late last year, Uber Freight and V.A.S. announced a multi-phase commercial and technology partnership to deploy Volvo’s autonomous transport solution on the Uber Freight network. Uber Freight will be one of V.A.S.’s first customers to pilot its hub-to-hub autonomous offering. As a part of the partnership, V.A.S. will offer autonomous freight capacity to Uber Freight shippers on select routes, starting in Texas.