Autonomous firm TuSimple exploring possible U.S. exit

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Trucking news and briefs for Friday, June 30, 2023:

TuSimple looking to potentially exit U.S. market

Autonomous truck tech manufacturer TuSimple announced Thursday it’s exploring strategic alternatives for its U.S. business, including a possible sale.

With the unanimous support of the TuSimple Board of Directors, the company has engaged Perella Weinberg Partners as a financial advisor to explore possible transactions for the U.S.-based portion of its business.

Since its establishment in 2015, TuSimple has built distinct businesses both in the U.S. and in the Asia-Pacific region. These businesses operate with stand-alone engineering teams, software code base, and infrastructure. If a transaction involving the U.S.-based business occurs, TuSimple will continue to be a global Level 4 autonomous driving technology company with greater emphasis on Asia-Pacific and other major global markets.

TuSimple has been embroiled in controversy of late, with a single-vehicle crash involving its autonomous driving system last April, followed by the departure of its legal chief amid a lawsuit, the firing and replacement of its CEO, the end of a partnership with Navistar and numerous rounds of layoffs.

No assurances can be given that TuSimple's exploration of strategic alternatives will result in any change in strategy or a transaction, the company noted. The decision to explore strategic alternatives for the U.S. business was guided by the company's review of multiple business factors and commercial opportunities.

The company does not plan to make further public comment regarding these matters until the Board of Directors has approved a specific transaction or other alternative, or otherwise concluded its review of strategic alternatives.

[Related: TuSimple announces more layoffs, remains dedicated to autonomous trucking]

Four more indicted in relation to grisly 2022 human smuggling attempt

Four Mexican nationals were arrested Monday, June 26, in San Antonio, Houston, and Marshall, Texas, for their alleged roles in a tractor-trailer smuggling incident that resulted in 53 deceased and 11 injured undocumented migrants a year ago.

The driver of the truck, Homero Zamorano Jr., and three others were charged last year in the case, with the driver facing up to life in prison or possibly the death penalty for his involvement. Also charged was Christian Martinez, who wascharged with one count of conspiracy to transport illegal aliens resulting in death.

According to court documents, between December 2021 and June 2022, Riley Covarrubias-Ponce, 30; Felipe Orduna-Torres, 28; Luis Alberto Rivera-Leal, 37; and Armando Gonzales-Ortega, 53, are alleged to have participated in a human smuggling organization which illegally brought adults and children from Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico into the United States.

The alleged smugglers worked in concert to transport the migrants by sharing routes, guides, stash houses, trucks, trailers, and transporters to consolidate costs, minimize risks, and maximize profit. The organization allegedly maintained a variety of tractors and trailers for their smuggling operations, some of which were stored at a private parking lot in San Antonio.

[Related: At least 50 migrants dead in alleged human smuggling attempt involving tractor-trailer]

The indictment alleges that in the days leading up to June 27, 2022, Covarrubias-Ponce, Orduna-Torres, and others exchanged the names of undocumented individuals who would be smuggled in a tractor-trailer. The four new defendants charged this week allegedly orchestrated the retrieval of an empty tractor-trailer and its corresponding hand-off to the driver on June 27.

Orduna-Torres allegedly provided the Laredo, Texas, address at which Zamorano loaded the migrants onto the tractor-trailer. The indictment also alleges that Gonzalez-Ortega traveled to Laredo to meet the tractor-trailer, where at least 66 undocumented individuals, including eight children and one pregnant woman, were loaded into the back to be smuggled. Martinez, Covarrubias-Ponce, Orduna-Torres, Rivera-Leal, and Gonzales-Ortega then allegedly coordinated, facilitated, passed messages, and kept each other updated on the tractor-trailer’s progress.

Some of the defendants charged were allegedly aware that the trailer’s reefer unit was malfunctioning and would not blow any cool air to the migrants inside. When members of the organization met the tractor-trailer at the end of its nearly three-hour journey to San Antonio, they opened the doors to find 48 of the migrants, including the pregnant woman, were already dead. Sixteen of the undocumented individuals were transported to hospitals, and five of them died there.

Each defendant is charged with one count each of conspiracy to transport illegal aliens resulting in death, conspiracy to transport illegal aliens resulting in serious bodily injury and placing lives in jeopardy, transportation of illegal aliens resulting in death, and transportation of illegal aliens resulting in serious bodily injury and placing lives in jeopardy. If convicted on the top counts, they each face a maximum penalty of life in prison.

[Related: Driver in Texas human smuggling operation faces possibility of death penalty]

ATA accepting applications for DEI Change Leader Award

The American Trucking Associations is accepting applications for the second annual ATA Diversity Equity and Inclusion Change Leader Award.

“ATA is leading the charge to make the trucking industry more diverse, and part of that is recognizing carriers and companies that are doing their part to create welcoming, equitable workplaces for their employees,” said ATA President and CEO Chris Spear. â€śThe Change Leader Award identifies industry leaders that are taking the important steps to provide equal opportunities from behind the wheel to the boardroom.”

The award, sponsored by Tenstreet, encourages ATA members to implement a DEI program or continue to improve an established company DEI program. The nominations are critiqued on the ability to develop a program, improve an existing program and measure and benchmark a successful culture of acceptance and inclusion.

Last year, ATA recognized nine companies for their commitment to diverse and equitable workplaces.

For more information on the ATA Diversity Equity and Inclusion Change Leader Award, or to submit an application, visit the official application page.

Award recipients will be honored on Oct. 14-17, during the American Trucking Associations’ Management Conference and Exhibition in Austin, Texas.

[Related: How principles of sports champions can apply to the trucking industry]