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Spanish start-up Trucksters has launched an express road freight service to the UK, using artificial intelligence (AI) to reduce transit time.

The operation will start with two routes, one covering the centre and north of Spain, and the other part of the Mediterranean area, carrying mostly foodstuffs.

Trips are completed in 28 to 34 hours, a reduction of almost 50% on standard transit times, with the time-saving made possible by the use of a relay system of drivers, based on AI, which allows the service to operate non-stop, Truckster co-founder and head of growth Gabor Balogh told The Loadstar.

Madrid-based Trucksters already operates a relay service between Spain and the Benelux, Germany and Poland.

Mr Balogh explained: “We load our trailers at origin and keep exchanging the trailer with different truck heads and drivers along the route.

“For example, for perishable loads from the Valencia area, bound for the UK, we would unload/re-load the trailer in Barcelona, in Macon (centre-east France) and in Calais, from where the trailer boards the Eurotunnel shuttle to the UK. On arrival, a local truck driver picks it up and delivers it to its end destination.”

Trucksters developed the tech for the relay service in-house, Mr Balogh said. “Around 30% of our 90 employees are dedicated to tech, our internal transport management system, mobile app and the brain behind it all, the relay algorithm.

“We found only one company elsewhere in the world to be doing something similar to ourselves, an Indian firm called Rivigo, now a ‘unicorn’.”

Trucksters is now looking to widen the coverage of its AI-supported express relay service in Europe.

“Our plan is to keep on expanding. The next market we’ll open is Italy – probably by the beginning of 2023 – and after that maybe the Nordics or Eastern Europe,” Mr Balogh said.

The relay system can also help companies access drivers, he claimed.

“It requires the same number of drivers, but of a different kind. Instead of needing international drivers (exclusively), we have a mix of international and local drivers. Local drivers are much easier to find, due to better labour conditions.

“The industry needs drivers, but do drivers need the industry? Only if we change our approach through relays. Standardising the relay system allows drivers to sleep at home every night, making the job more attractive.”

Mr Balogh described the EU’s cross-border road haulage sector as “broken”, explaining: “The EU has a 20% shortfall in truck drivers, while idle hours represent on average more than 60% of transit times. €8bn is stolen every year in the EU in merchandise value – largely because trailers are prone to theft during drivers’ rest periods.

“Trucksters’ approach is to move road freight in relays, accelerating the electrification and the autonomy of HGVs while delivering value to all stakeholders, including clients (transit times which are twice as quick and four times more secure) while improving the working conditions of drivers.

“We are the fastest-growing long-haul digital transport operator in the EU, reaching annual run rate revenues of €20m in May. We are focused on e-commerce, textiles, food and electronics and our clients already include Nike, DPD and DHL.”

Sustainable road freight is high on Trucksters’ agenda, Mr Balogh said, with the company leveraging its relay infrastructure to make a significant impact on the environment.

“Our service provides scope to reduce CO2 emissions in three different ways. Firstly, by increasing the modal share of trucking versus air freight (which emits up to 10 times more CO2) as a result of better transit times. Secondly, by a diminution of more than 50% in the amount of empty km trucks clock up every year, made possible by our high-density (road freight) corridors, and thirdly, through optimising the utilisation of trucks, with Trucksters helping carriers to acquire more eco-friendly vehicles, cutting CO2 emissions by up to 75%.”

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