How Sam’s Club Driverless Shipments Could Pave Way for Major Economic Turning Point

"Folsom, California, USA  - January 22, 2013: The club membership is very popular in  America, Sams Club is one of the most popular like this one in Folsom California and on this winter day it is very busy as you can see with the shoppers at the door.
jmoor17 / Getty Images

Sam’s Club announced a partnership with autonomous truck company Gatik to deliver paper goods in the Dallas-Fort Worth region, Gatik said in a press release. The new technology could help address a slew of issues, including driver shortages and soaring gas prices.

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“Under the partnership, Gatik will automate part of the Georgia-Pacific-KBX on-road transportation network in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, delivering goods round the clock, 7 days a week across a network of 34 Sam’s Club locations,” according to the release.

Gatik said that by replacing traditional tractor trailers with autonomous box trucks, operations “will establish a more responsive and flexible logistics network, increasing the cadence of delivery runs and the flow of goods, while reducing logistics costs and enabling near real-time inventory fulfillment.”

The operations will start in July 2022.

“We are looking forward to testing this transformational technology to deliver Georgia-Pacific brands like Quilted Northern bath tissue and Dixie products to Sam’s Clubs,” Hayes Shimp, vice president of sales for Georgia-Pacific, was quoted as saying in the release. “Once proven, we believe autonomous deliveries will enable us to remove cost and complexity from the supply chain so that we can better serve Sam’s Club, and their members.”

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The Hill reports that over the past several years, there’s been an emergence of start-ups aiming to implement full-scale autonomous trucking operations, with pilot programs in Texas, Florida and Arizona.  

For example, Alphabet’s self-driving truck venture Waymo Via announced a partnership with truck fleet operator C.H. Robinson to deliver freight between Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston using autonomous trucks, according to The Hill.

And last November, Gatik announced a partnership with Walmart to operate “daily without a safety driver behind the wheel on its delivery route for Walmart in Bentonville, Arkansas, moving customer orders between a Walmart dark store and a Neighborhood Market in its fleet of multi-temperature autonomous box trucks,” according to a press release.

“Gatik’s deployment with Walmart in the state represents the first time that an autonomous trucking company has removed the safety driver from a commercial delivery route on the middle mile anywhere in the world,” the company said at the time.

Gatik’s fully driverless operations, which began in August 2021, involve consistent delivery runs multiple times per day, seven days per week on public roads and “unlock the full advantages of autonomous delivery for Walmart’s customers: increased speed and responsiveness when fulfilling e-commerce orders, increased asset utilization and enhanced safety for all road users.”

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Indeed, the new technology could help address a slew of issues, including driver shortages, soaring gas prices,  fewer accidents, traffic jams and less pollution, The Hill added. 

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About the Author

Yaël Bizouati-Kennedy is a full-time financial journalist and has written for several publications, including Dow Jones, The Financial Times Group, Bloomberg and Business Insider. She also worked as a vice president/senior content writer for major NYC-based financial companies, including New York Life and MSCI. Yaël is now freelancing and most recently, she co-authored  the book “Blockchain for Medical Research: Accelerating Trust in Healthcare,” with Dr. Sean Manion. (CRC Press, April 2020) She holds two master’s degrees, including one in Journalism from New York University and one in Russian Studies from Université Toulouse-Jean Jaurès, France.
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