BeyondTrucks BLOG

What Tesla and Traditional Big Rig Brands Can Learn From Each Other

Recently, I spotted a few Tesla Cybertrucks on the road, and it got me thinking. Even though Tesla has its own line of electric semi-trucks, the Cybertruck’s unique design and advanced features are unlike anything we’ve seen. So what can Tesla learn from the well-established semi-truck brands, and what can those brands learn from this new model?

Lessons for Tesla from Traditional Semi-Truck Brands
  • Durability and Reliability 

Traditional semi-truck brands like Freightliner, Peterbilt, and Kenworth are synonymous with durability and reliability. They can regularly go over 750,000 miles.  No one knows how far the Cybertruck can go or how well the steel will age - a steelmaker once told me “it’s called stainless not strainfree” - we shall see.

  • Customization Options 

Semi-truck manufacturers offer extensive customization to meet the specific needs of different industries. Whether it’s refrigerated units, flatbeds, or tankers, companies like Peterbilt and Kenworth provide tailored solutions. Tesla could expand its offerings by providing modular customization options, allowing customers to configure their trucks based on unique operational requirements. Imagine a long-haul package where the bed of the truck has additional battery capacity?

  • Driver Comfort and Ergonomics 

Driving a semi-truck involves long hours on the road. Brands like Volvo and International Trucks prioritize driver comfort with features like ergonomic seating, advanced climate control, and spacious sleeper cabs. Not sure about the comfort in the Cybertruck but, if the seats are like the Model X sign me up for some additional padding.

  • Service Network 

One of the significant advantages traditional semi-truck brands have is their extensive service network. Currently there are about 160 Tesla dealerships stores in the US so a decent footprint but not comprehensive

What can the Semi-Truck Brands learn from Tesla
  • Electric Powertrains 

Tesla’s expertise in electric vehicle technology is unparalleled. Traditional semi-truck brands can learn from Tesla’s battery management systems and electric drivetrains to develop their own electric trucks. By adopting these technologies, they can offer more sustainable options and reduce their carbon footprint.

  • Innovative Design 

Whether you like it or not the Cybertruck has low “drag” and while being the fastest pick up ever tested by Car and Driver is not proof of design it certainly isn’t holding it back.  What if the big-rigs went for low drag and to hell with the looks? 

  • Advanced Autonomous Features 

Tesla’s Autopilot and Full Self-Driving features are at the forefront of automotive innovation. Semi-truck manufacturers have options when it comes to this tech but Tesla is the king and they should not be too proud. 

  • Direct Customer Engagement 

Tesla’s direct-to-consumer sales model allows for a more personalized customer experience. While it has been challenged in the courts, I don’t know of any of their locations closing because of laws against direct to consumer auto sales.  Traditional brands could adopt similar practices by improving their customer engagement strategies - it would be hard news to break to the dealer network but there may be some compromises.

  • Material Innovation 

The Cybertruck’s use of ultra-hard 30X cold-rolled stainless steel is a game-changer. Semi-truck manufacturers can experiment with new materials that offer better durability without significantly increasing weight. This can result in trucks that are not only stronger but also more fuel-efficient.  I’ve heard people complaining about the plastic hoods and other panels on their trucks so maybe cold-hard steel would be more welcome?