An Ex-trucker has some questions about the Tesla Semi

We don’t know what the production truck will achieve when it hits the road, but the Semi has a lot going for it. The Semi seems most impressive to those who don’t know what it’s like to be a truck driver. First, let’s clear up what this truck is for, as it was presented. This truck suits line-haul – routes that run between a company’s terminals, like from one regional Wal-Mart distribution center to another.When Musk made the case for a 20-percent savings over a diesel truck, he based the numbers on a 100-mile trip – fifty miles out, fifty miles back.

This first version of the Semi will not replace the dozens of thousands of trucks on huge regional or coast-to-coast runs, clocking 2,000 to 5,000 miles per week. I already get “a commanding view of the road” in a traditional truck because I sit six feet above traffic. What I need is a commanding view of my own truck, which the central seating position compromises. I can’t see around trucks in front of me without pulling halfway into another lane.

The silver, condo-sleeper truck at the presentation only had cameras mounted at the rear of the tractor. The black, mid-roof truck supplemented physical mirrors on lengthy stalks on both sides of the cab. Most new trucks come with mirrors mounted on the front fenders that provide views of the front corners – my Kenworth had seven mirrors in total, I’ve seen plenty of trucks with more. You’d be amazed at the number of tiny concrete and reinforced steel impediments lurking at truck stops and customer terminals. Doing an 11-hour stint in a dark cockpit in the glow of large digital screens only works in anime and “Battlestar Galactica.” I had one computer in both trucks I drove, and unless I was using it, I turned the screen off. The trucks I drove had one necessary third-party device in the cab, a Qualcomm computer to communicate with HQ, and I put a portable GPS unit on the windshield.

The truck cabin photo Musk used during the presentation had a Qualcomm-type unit, plus a traditional GPS, plus an iPad with a GPS display, plus another small display I couldn’t identify. I’ve been in plenty of truck stops and walked by a ton of trucks, and only the most frightened novice or the most chronically indecisive driver would mount that much junk. Truckers don’t “Sit there” while filling up at a truck stop. Truckers clean all the windows, mirrors, and headlights, check the tires and axle seals, make sure every tractor and trailer light works, and look for damage. This walkaround can take longer than the actual fill-up, and it must be done no matter what energy powers the truck.

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