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Self-Driving Semis: The Future of the Trucking Industry

Photo Credit: Wired

As artificial intelligence increases in modernity and practicality, its usage increases across all industries and fields, and trucking is no exception. Society is slowly warming up to the idea of self-driving cars, but self-driving semi-trucks is severely more frightening of a concept. Self-driving semis seem riskier because they’re bigger and more physically intimidating, but the technology is not as different as you might think.

Government Involvement

United States government research facilities have allowed for the testing of self-driving vehicles nationwide. Over 12 states have rolled out programs to test the practicality and safety of self-driving trucks and ultimately the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will determine the rules and regulations. This government involvement will limit the extent of biases from specific companies.

Is Autonomous Technology Safe?

One of the main public concerns is safety. Software can often be inconsistent due to bugs and programming errors, and people tend to trust themselves more than a computer. Industry experts are even predicting that once the technology is perfected, this AI opportunity could dramatically increase safety on the roads. Humans make mistakes, and machines are typically much more consistent and predictable since they’re automatic in their decision making.

Additionally, autonomous driving comes with the added benefit of an instant reaction time, eliminating the single largest source of automotive accidents, which is human error. The number of front and back-end collisions will be reduced because this technology will monitor and maintain safe distances between vehicles.

You’re not Giving up ALL Control

While these advancements are coming at us quick, the transition definitely won’t be instantaneous. The switch to self-driving vehicles will most likely happen in smaller pieces incorporated into the current system. For the foreseeable future, automation in large scale transportation vehicles will still be overseen by a living, breathing human. There will be a tech-savvy person in the cab catching any technical errors or insights that need to be handled. This measure will mostly be a “just in case” sort of arrangement.

Theoretically, the truck should be mostly automatic, but it’s important to have a safety net, especially since these trucks will be on the roads with non-self-driving vehicles. Human error is simply something that cannot be planned for or programmed into a software, so the human presence is mostly to account for other drivers on the road and not the truck itself.

Job Security

This component of the process is also important to the livelihoods of truckers everywhere. A big concern with self-driving semi-trucks is that they will put drivers out of work and damage the industry and culture that truckers have built. Since self-driving cars will still have to be monitored and accompanied by actual living people, truckers will be able to stay employed even if their job becomes slightly more automatic.

Decreasing a Driver’s Heavy Workload

One of the biggest problems in the trucking industry right now is overworked drivers. There is currently a national driver shortage that is leading to tired and overstretched days that result in decreased productivity and an increased risk of mistakes and accidents. As mentioned previously, we would be gradually easing into this new era of self-driving vehicles. That would mean that slowly, the workload for truckers would get more and more manageable as we settle into these new advancements. The exhaustion and over-exertion of the job could potentially be a thing of the past.

Companies That Are Making It Happen

There are many companies who want a place at this table. It is projected to be the future of the industry, therefore companies such as Embark and Daimler are starting to invest more and more in recent years into the process. Embark comments that self-driving semis are even more crucial to the future of our roads than self-driving cars. The incredible influence that this technology could have on delivery, productivity and general efficiency in countless industries makes this all a huge potential for profit.

This is an immensely controversial topic. Many fear for what self-driving vehicles mean for safety and job prospects alike. While it’s impossible to truly predict these things until we see them happen in real time, industry experts are optimistic about what it means for drivers and their employers. If this transition goes as predicted, companies can increase profits and drivers will have improved qualities of life, all with the benefit of added safety. Autonomous vehicle testing is already in progress and growth and development of this new and innovative technology is expected to blossom in upcoming years.

At Mission Financial, we’re here to help you start your trucking career with semi-truck financing options.  We have amazing rates, customer service, and informative resources that will help you make the smartest decisions when getting started.

Uber Chooses Chicago as Its New Freight Headquarters

Image credit: Cargo Trans Inc


Uber recently announced that it would be funding a new Freight Business Headquarters in Chicago, Illinois. They revealed plans for office space in the famous River District taking up residence in a historic Post Office that has been uninhabited for years, until now. Their goal is to streamline their entire operations by centralizing corporate space.

The branch of the popular drive-share service allows for semi-truck drivers to lend their services to a variety of businesses on a more temporary basis than traditional industry contracts. The division matches shippers to truckers than can fulfill their needs, allowing truckers to have increased control when and where they work. Drivers can select a route or trip individually and receive pricing and timelines upfront. This program is available throughout both the United States and Europe.

Company Growth

The young company started its Freight Division a little over two years ago in May of 2017 and has already grown at an astonishing pace. The digital broker has expanded to $350 million in gross annual bookings in that short time, according to early-year paperwork. Reportedly, the business services 400,00 drivers to 1,000 businesses needing shipping. This growth led to a need for an increase in infrastructure, hence the search for a new headquarters. This astonishing progression is what has allowed Uber to make a name for itself alongside more traditional freight companies.

Why Chicago?

Chicago has long been a popular shipping hub, making it a good place for drivers to flock to for dependable work. The transportation industry has blossomed in the area to allow for a large pool of qualified trucking experts and professionals that will set Uber up for success when they begin their employing process. The area is also known for its logistics expertise which will hopefully aid in development. Uber Freight also already had about 1,000 employees in the area, which will be a great starting point when building the operation. The area is also known for its tech talent, helping to advance the technological future of trucking.

The Investment

The current estimate of investment sits at around $200 million going into the region annually through Uber Freight, which contains the potential for tremendous impact. The growth that this could bring to the transportation hub that is already thriving in Chicago is potentially boundless. While Uber faces competition from more established companies such as the Seattle-based Convoy, this hefty investment should help Uber compete with older and more seasoned veterans. To an extent, it has already paid off. The big company has already landed deals with expensive clients such as Land O’ Lakes.

The Immediate Impact

This has been an immensely controversial announcement due to the fluctuating reputation of Uber themselves. While Uber claims that their involvement in the areas has brought upwards of $1 billion through its involvement over the past few years, the company has a reputation for clashing with local government. This leaves many Chicago locals concerned for how the big business will impact the integrity of their city. Whether or not you agree with the moral standings of the company, it’s clear that this development will bring a steep increase of transport and related jobs to the area, as well as a significant amount of added income for the city and its people.

In addition to the immediate impact on the area, it brings change to the trucking industry in general with the new structure of the program. The structure of the program allows drivers to have significantly increased control over their hours since they can accept trips on a case-by-case basis that allows them to work as much or as little as is necessary. This could be an immensely beneficial revolution for the industry. It would help to eliminate excessive hours that are often forced onto truckers by their employers, which would benefit their overall quality of life. On the other hand, there is currently a national driver shortage in long-haul trucking, and companies wouldn’t have to hire full-time truck drivers and could instead fill in gaps with whatever drivers want to work on that route.

The Future of the Industry

What Uber has done with the traditional structure of acquiring drivers is revolutionary. The phone-based booking system allows drivers to have more control over their routes and see the payment plan upfront. While the rates for routes are somewhat inconsistent, experts agree that this internet-based agreement system is the route for the industry in the immediate future in response to recent national shortages. The system will additionally improve efficiency. Companies can get more routes done in a shorter amount of time because the system doesn’t have a set number of drivers. They can send more people out onto the road without having to wait for the previous drivers to return from their routes.

To learn more about the changing transportation and freight industry, check out our blog today!


Alternatives to Diesel Fuel: Reducing Emissions with Electric Semi-Trucks

Image Credit: Tesla


In the wake of the popularization of electric cars, scooters and bikes, sustainability is one of the most controversial buzzwords in the transportation industry. Reducing air pollution and fuel consumption is a worldwide obsession and the biggest names in the automobile industry are playing right along. Developers are consistently expounding on ideals of efficient trucking, but the practicality of such is up for substantial debate.

Semi-trucks are one of the only remaining transportation systems that hadn’t been seduced by the glamour of electric and increasingly sustainable fuel sources, until now. Diesel big rigs have been running the game for far too long and now is finally the time for more environmentally-friendly options. Get ready, because the trucking industry is going green at a stunningly fast rate.

Tesla’s Electric Semi-Truck is Here

Electric-operated semi-trucks are emerging more than ever. Modern intelligence mogul Elon Musk recently announced a new option for truckers worldwide who were looking to lower fuel costs, reduce emissions, and achieve maximum efficiency in their resource usage. From the popular yet controversial brand Tesla, the new semi-truck option has the entire trucking community buzzing.

Simply called the “Tesla Semi,” the new truck has sparked provocative discussions about the practicality of the green movement for the entire trucking industry. Musk asserts that not only is this option better for the environment and pollution levels, it’s beneficial for the truckers themselves. In a mockup, he compares the acceleration efficiency of his Semi to a traditional diesel truck. The new Tesla truck supposedly can go from 0-60 miles per hour in a mere 20 seconds, an acceleration rate which would greatly increase on-road efficiency and traffic flow for truckers.

On top of the mechanical superiorities, Tesla claims that this new innovation will help to save costs with an estimated $200,000 in fuel savings. While this number may seem appealing initially, it’s estimated for over a span of two years and might not outweigh the additional costs that come along with such a high-tech purchase. With an expected base of $180,000, it’s no mystery why many truckers are skeptical of the payoff. While an electric truck may save in fuel, such a high cost upfront isn’t realistic for most truckers, leaving them still searching for more financially realistic diesel alternatives.

Fuel Cell Alternatives

A slightly less costly way to achieve an alternative power source for the trucking industry is through hydrogen-fuel cell powered vehicles. Hydrogen fuel cells create energy without burning the same polluting outputs as conventional diesel. Combining Hydrogen and Oxygen creates a power source that has been found to be remarkably efficient for transportation.

Toyota, a more traditionally obtainable brand is releasing its first truck powered by hydrogen fuel cells in the last quarter of this calendar year. They partnered with Kenworth Trucking Co. for their mutual goal. They seek to reduce emissions at major U.S. ports that were experiencing especially bad air pollution from the high trucking traffic that took place there. The truck is fitted with two fuel cells that have been determined to provide substantial power for the alternative semi-trucks.

Toyota and Kenworth both assert that this move was motivated by environmental awareness, but it coincidentally is a politically popular move. They are seeking to eliminate air pollution caused by heavy trucking routes and develop more sustainable practices to propel trucking into the future of fuel technology.

This truck is suspected to be slightly more affordable upfront, since the funding for the research and production of these vehicles was partially funded by government initiatives that sought to reduce large masses of harmful emissions, which pose a threat to public health. Public funding will most likely lower final costs to consumers as those expenses aren’t factored into base costs.

Electric vs Hydrogen Fuel Cell Power

Both hydrogen-fuel cell powered trucks and full-electric trucks have their individual benefits in respect to efficiency and reductions in emissions, but it’s hard to definitively say which is the superior choice for a trucker seeking zero-emissions options. The final decision will depend on the individual needs of each route.

Additional factors such as charging/fueling opportunities and availability can sway the practicality option of these developments drastically. Developing charging stations and fueling ports for hydrogen cells will require substantial updates to major highways and interstate peel-offs in order to accommodate the long, often expansive routes of cargo delivery drivers. If this trend flourishes, alternative fueling stations will need to massively grow in abundance to accommodate the nature of the industry itself.

The trucking industry contains infinite intricacies that can often be complex and unpredictable, so it’s immensely important to properly educate yourself before exploring any type of alternate semi-truck options. Even if you’re not ready to commit to the investment of alternatively powered semi-trucks, there are lots of ways fleet owners can conserve fuel and help reduce emissions. Check out other helpful tips and keep up with the latest industry news with Mission Financial.

Retailers Respond to Amazon’s Next-Day Shipping


Commerce giant Amazon is no stranger to disrupting industries. From its early years of disrupting the book retail industry by making new and used books more accessible than ever, to changing the way people grocery shop with its purchase of Whole Foods, Amazon has challenged other businesses to keep up with the so-called Amazon Effect.

Now, Amazon is aiming to disrupt the shipping industry by changing their two-day shipping program into a ubiquitous, one-day shipping model across the U.S. It is now up to other businesses to adjust under the added pressure to keep up with Amazon and the heightened expectations of consumers. This change also has the potential to disrupt the trucking industry as faster turnaround will be in high demand.

Amazon Announces Next Day Shipping  

In April of 2019, Amazon made the announcement that one-day shipping would soon replace two-day shipping as the norm from Amazon Prime customers across the country. Previously, one-day shipping was reserved for specific areas, primarily those in large, metropolitan cities. Amazon also stated that they are expecting to invest $800 million during the second quarter this year to create the delivery infrastructures and warehouses necessary to make one-day shipping possible everywhere.

Amazon already has 100 million Prime members across the U.S. who pay $119 per year to receive free shipping and one-to-two-day shipping on goods including clothes, books, home supplies, dry goods, and even groceries in select areas. That means that Prime is already in 50 percent of U.S. households. With one-day shipping expanding to all areas of the country, more people than ever will be able to enjoy their orders arriving on their doorsteps in less than 24 hours. Additionally, Amazon can expect their member pool to grow exponentially. While this sounds like great news for Amazon and its members, these changes are leaving retailers needing big changes to retain their customer base.

Retailers Respond to Amazon Next-Day Shipping

Soon after Amazon’s next-day shipping announcement, Walmart alluded to their own one-day shipping plan in a short tweet:

 “One-day free shipping…without a membership fee. Now THAT would be groundbreaking. Stay tuned.”

This tweet not only stated that Walmart had plans to mimic Amazon’s one-day shipping model, but they have also hinted at their plans to offer this service without the membership fee Amazon requires.

In May of 2019, Walmart came through on their promise and announced their plans to release one-day shipping across the country. They stated that they will begin next-day shipping in Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Southern California, then expand the service to 75 percent of the U.S. by the end of 2019. Since Amazon has not released a set date for their next-day shipping expansion, there is a chance Walmart may beat Amazon to certain areas of the country. This could cause some consumers to be less interested in an Amazon Prime membership, since there is already a similar service for free.

Walmart is not the only retailer to quickly respond to Amazon’s new supply chain model. Home Depot has also announced its plan to offer next-day delivery for up to 50 percent of the U.S. population by the middle of 2019. Its CEO also stated the company is already offering this service to 36 percent of the population.

Over the years, Target has taken steps to keep up with Amazon’s ever-changing shipping services. In March of 2018, Target began offering free two-day shipping to all of its credit card holders. It also offers this service to other customers on orders over $35 dollars. Target also acquired the shipping company Shipt to allow customers to enjoy same-day delivery in larger cities. Target also offers a variety of services to make shopping easier for customers, including its Drive Up or Pick Up services provided at 8,500 brick-and-mortar stores.  To date, Target has not announced any new tactics to compete with Amazon, but simply reminded consumers in a statement about the services they already offer.

How Will Same-Day Shipping Affect the Trucking Industry?

Just like big box retailers must rethink their business models to keep pace with Amazon, the trucking industry must innovate to meet the demand of nationwide same-day shipping. For example, as retail analysts have opened, it may be in the interests of big box retailers like Home Depot and Walmart to combine one-day shipping volumes to provide faster logistics at lower cost. The trucking industry may need to develop new programs and services to help retailers maximize their logistics speed and timing to compete with Amazon’s logistics capabilities. Truckers will need to act as trusted advisors to recommend to shippers the program or service that best meets their needs.

The new, higher demand for fast shipping will cause some growing pains for multiple industries. However, it equates to high job security for truckers and potentially more demand for qualified drivers, freight owners, and logistics managers. That means now is a great time to invest in your business or truck. And for all your commercial financing needs, trust the experts at Mission Financial Services. Apply today and get approved for a semi-truck loan in no time.

How the IoT Increases Visibility of Assets Throughout the Supply Chain

Trucking: A Supply Chain Workhorse


What image comes to mind when almost anyone thinks about moving palettes of product from a manufacturer to a distribution center or to a store for purchase? Trucks, and rightly so. The American Trucking Association reported that trucks moved 70.2 percent of all domestic freight tonnage in the United States. It took 3.6 million heavy-duty Class 8 trucks moving 10.5 billion tons of freight and burning 39 billion tons of diesel fuel to accomplish that feat.

Clearly, the trucking industry is a huge part of the supply chain. That’s quite a load of trucks, drivers, and freight to manage. How in the world can anyone or any company manage all of their drivers and trucks, not to mention all the freight they move? Can a company know all their trucks’ locations at any point on their routes in real time? Is a truck’s tire or engine about to fail while on its route, possibly impacting delivery time? Could anyone have foreseen that truck’s issues and taken it out of service for repair? If a company has multiple drivers delivering to a company, how can it know they are all taking the most economical and timely route or perhaps a route that can damage trailer contents? Is the environment in each trailer suitable for the type of freight it’s carrying? Are your drivers driving as safely as they could or should?

Attorneys say you should never ask a question to which you don’t know the answer; all these questions have answers that may surprise you. Briefly, the answer to all these questions is yes. Let’s explore a little.

What is The Internet of Things?

Almost everyone has an idea of what the Internet is. It began as a network of hardware and software technologies that allowed computers to connect to it and talk to each other so people in government, scientific, and academic circles could find information and share it with each other.

Now all kinds of devices connect and communicate through the Internet – smart TVs, smartphones, vending machines, refrigerators, and more recently, small devices called sensors. Hence the name The Internet of Things, or IoT for short. The Internet of Everything Under the Sun doesn’t quite have the same ring and the acronym is even worse.

Sensors communicate among themselves, meaning they send information to and from one another and with an asset tracking system or fleet management system (depending upon the type of asset you’re managing), all in real time, to help businesses solve many types of difficult business problems and save significant money that otherwise would have been lost.

Profound Benefits of IoT to the Supply Chain

The IoT will impact the supply chain in ways never seen before, creating sweeping revenue opportunities and operational efficiencies heretofore unseen. Asset tracking, vendor relations, forecasting and inventory, connected fleets, and maintenance are all areas within supply chain management that will see unprecedented boons. Here are some examples of the use of and the benefits from the IoT:

1. Asset Tracking and Supply Chain Visibility

A case study by Sierra Wireless discusses how one of their customers, Tive, helped a washing machine manufacturer identify and resolve washing machine damage that occurred during shipping by employing IoT asset tracking to improve supply chain visibility.

In another example, real time asset tracking saved $1.5 million of medication from ruin because trackers placed inside the shipping container alerted the pharmaceutical company that the container temperature was too low. The pharmaceutical company immediately was able to reach someone at the port where the container was and fix the temperature issue.

2. Proactive and Preventive Maintenance

Who hasn’t seen a fleet truck stopped on a highway shoulder with its cab up and the driver trying to determine what needs repair? In the meantime, the scheduled delivery time looks less likely by the minute.

That situation never would have occurred had the fleet owner installed sensors that talked to a fleet management system. The sensors would have alerted the fleet management system about the problem before the truck was even loaded with its freight. The system would have taken the truck out of service and scheduled it for repair for whatever component the sensor indicated was about to malfunction or was malfunctioning. Additionally, the fleet management system would only schedule a technician certified to work on that make and model of truck; problem solved even before it began.

Think of the headaches the IoT averted in that hypothetical scenario:

  • A truck destined to break down was not dispatched.
  • Towing fees were avoided.
  • The driver was able to do what he did best – be productive driving and not be sidelined on a shoulder somewhere.
  • Foreknowledge about a defective truck avoided a late delivery, keeping original delivery time commitments intact.
  • The truck technician could repair the truck faster because the truck sensor identified the problem, saving diagnosis time, and scheduled the right person to do the work.

3. Platooning

Platooning, which groups trucks on a journey, employs artificial intelligence and other IoT technologies to allow legal, digital tailgating among a fleet of trucks. It can improve truck safety using technology already available on trucks – lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, and air brakes. It also promises to reduce fuel consumption from 5-20 percent by meticulously and automatically managing the distances among fleets of trucks through wireless communication among sensors, allowing trucks to take advantage of an aerodynamic effect, known as drafting.

Platooning also improves road capacity and road safety. Because of the near instantaneous communication of these state-of-the-art driving support systems, trucks simultaneously can accelerate or brake, which supports better traffic flow. They also can follow each other more closely because platooned trucks react orders of magnitude faster than human drivers. They don’t require the same amount of distance between them to compensate for the slower reaction time.

Looking Forward and Forward-Looking

These are incredibly exciting times in the transportation industry with many positive changes in the near future. With change comes opportunity and all of us at Mission Financial Services look forward to helping you take advantage of those opportunities. Contact us today to get started with your commercial vehicle loan.

How New Platooning will Make Trucking Safer than Ever


Excitement is building in the commercial trucking industry as people wait for the leader in platooning, Peloton, to announce the release date for its two-truck platooning system, PlatoonPro. In hopes of temporarily satisfying truck enthusiasts, the company released a list of the safety measures they have put in place to make sure their platooning technology will increase safety for truckers and other cars on the road. Here are some of the ways Peloton is ensuring their tech will make driving safer once it is released.

What is Platooning?

Platooning is a new way we are seeing artificial intelligence working in the trucking industry. This technology is a legal, digital way for a fleet of trucks to communicate with one another using a wireless internet connection. When the front truck brakes, the truck behind can automatically brake or slow down to avoid a collision. Reaction time is improved, allowing trucks to follow more closely behind each other compared to manual driving or cruise control.

Platooning is spreading rapidly thanks to the technology being adapted by numerous truck manufacturers. Companies now working to equip their trucks with platooning technology include Tesla, Volvo, Daimler Truck North America, and many more.  

Expanding Upon Proven Technology

In their article, Peloton states that its goal is to make platooning safer for truckers than ever before. That means the moment they hit the button to activate the platooning feature of their truck, their risk of collision or accident should decrease dramatically.

From safety systems to air disc brakes, Peloton’s goal is to not disable any preexisting technology when platooning is enabled. Instead, they are building upon these proven safety systems to make platooning even safer. They also plan to hold their trucks to a high standard with strict maintenance and inspection requirements that will ensure all trucks are in working order before hitting the platoon button.

How New Platooning is Increasing Safety

Apart from proven technology already found in commercial vehicles, the new platooning system will also add features not commonly seen behind the wheel of a semi. Features of Peloton’s new system will include:

  • Connected Braking

One of the biggest aspects will be the new vehicle-to-vehicle direct communication. This technology will be possible due to industry-standard digital short-range communications (DSRC.) This will allow two trucks to accelerate, slow down, and brake together. With this technology, truckers will be able to follow closer than ever before without having to worry about reaction delay. This will decrease fuel consumption, allow for more space on the highway, and make driving easier and safer.

  • Platoon ProXimity Dissolve

Platoon ProXimity Dissolve will use camera sensor data and radars to gage traffic conditions in front of the leading truck during a platoon. In case traffic becomes too dense, or if a car cuts in front of the lead truck, the following truck automatically slows down to create more space. This allows all drivers to avoid any situations that may require hard and sudden braking during a platoon.

  • Platoon Dissolve

Platoon Dissolve allows the following driver to manually dissolve the platoon. With the follow-truck system, the driver can slowly increase the gap between the two trucks until there is enough space to safely start controlling the brake and accelerator pedals.

  • Display Awareness Video and Info Display

To help the following trucker have a better understanding of what is going on ahead, PlatoonPro features an Info Display in the dash. This display will provide a live video feed from a forward-facing camera in the lead truck, so following drivers will be able to see changing road conditions, upcoming traffic, ramps or bridges, and any other objects up ahead.

  • Voice Communications

To help promote efficient communication and teamwork between drivers, the new platooning system is equipped with a hands-free driver-to-driver radio that can be activated with a foot pedal. This will help with synchronizing lane changes, upcoming road changes and when to dissolve a platoon.

  • Cybersecurity

Because platooning systems could potentially be hacked or tampered with from outside sources, it is important that these systems have top-notch cybersecurity to keep truckers and surrounding drivers safe. This system has been highly tested to prevent hacking and will immediately dissolve if a system becomes jammed.

Future of Platooning

Platooning is still in its early phases and requires more research before all 50 states will allow it. Only half of the U.S. currently authorizes the technology, but companies like Peloton are embracing industry standard testing. Substantial in-lab and track testing must be done first before moving on to on-road testing in order to maximize safety standards. As more and more companies continue to do this, then more states will continue to change their laws.

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