A California-based autonomous trucking company will begin making deliveries to 34 Sam’s Club locations in the Dallas area starting in July.
Gatik will operate autonomous 26-foot box trucks in North Texas seven days a week as part of a transportation network run by Georgia-Pacific and KBX Logistics. Gatik is replacing tractor-trailers with box trucks, a move it said will increase delivery route sequences and reduce costs.
The trucks will carry Georgia-Pacific brands like Quilted Northern bath tissue and Dixie products to Sam’s Clubs.
Gatik opened a trucking facility in Fort Worth a year ago to serve as its Texas hub. It pledged to create over 500 jobs by 2025.
Gautam Narang, CEO and co-founder of Gatik, described the partnership in a statement as a way to transform regional distribution of goods from semitruck deliveries to one “with unparalleled reliability, speed and consistency.”
The number of runs will increase from once or twice a week to two to four times a week, said Richard Steiner, Gatik’s head of policy and communications.
Initially, Gatik trucks will operate with a safety driver aboard, but it plans to eventually remove the driver. Gatik began testing the technology with Walmart, the parent company of Sam’s Club, in December 2020 on a seven-mile loop in Bentonville, Arkansas.
Texas is a key state for self-driving truck experimentation. In April, California-based self-driving trucking company Kodiak Robotics partnered with carrier fleet U.S. Xpress to launch an autonomously operated cargo service between Dallas-Fort Worth and Atlanta. TuSimple and Waymo are also conducting tests in the Dallas area.
It’s a large market to enter, and Gatik expects to add local staff, Steiner said. A medium-duty Gatik truck operates over 20 hours a day, seven days a week. Steiner said each truck will average three runs a day, 50 miles each way.
The trucking industry has faced a driver shortage that the pandemic exacerbated. Walmart said in April that it was raising pay for its private fleet of 12,000 truck drivers. Walmart truck drivers can now make up to $110,000 in their first year with the company.