Since Tesla delivered the first units of its all-electric Semi to Frito-Lay facilities in Modesto, California, in December 2022, any instance of one breaking down on the side of the road has been photographed and highly publicized. However, Teslarati has been told that at least some of the “breakdowns” are caused by a glitch within a software switch, and drivers are pulling over voluntarily as a precaution because the dash screens will flicker and sometimes shut off.
Since December, there have been at least eight instances of Tesla Semi vehicles breaking down. Some attributed it to a loss of range from carrying a load of products, as weight and hauling affect how far an EV can go.
Others suspected it was a mechanical issue, as the Semi is still a relatively young product that has been in development for some time but has only been used in real-world applications by a company that is not Tesla for a few months.
While these are a possibility, they would be expected. Vehicles break down all the time for various reasons, including mechanical failures, and people often run out of gas in combustion engine vehicles and/or range in EVs.
TESLA SEMI DRIVERS ARE EXPERIENCING DASH ISSUES
At least some of the Semi breakdowns can be attributed to a glitch with a software switch, Teslarati has learned. How many of the breakdowns can be attributed to this issue is unknown, but more than one has been described as having this problem.
According to a source close to the operation in Modesto, drivers are pulling over their Semis as a precaution, as the glitch is causing the dash screens and lights on those screens to flicker and sometimes shut off. “They don’t know what to do,” said the person who did not want to be identified. “So they just pull over, and then they are towed.”
Drivers and others involved in the logistics portion of the operation at Frito-Lay that use the Tesla Semi have stated that the screens will not operate properly. Drivers are pulling over as the screens hold valuable information, such as speed, range, camera views surrounding the truck, suspension information, trailer hitch controls, and more.
Without the screens being operational, drivers run into issues that can affect how their jobs are performed, including important safety metrics like speed.
The vehicles are then towed to what we were told is a “secret location” in Lathrop, California, for inspection and repair.
A tow truck driver that has been responsible for transporting the Semis to Lathrop said they had towed at least four units to that location thus far.
WHY THIS ISN’T SO BAD
The Semi has only been in Frito-Lay’s hands for about four months, and it is an extremely early project that is still a very limited operation. Frito-Lay expects to have only fifteen Tesla Semis in Modesto this year, so the vehicle is not taking over the entire fleet. In fact, Frito-Lay has adopted various sustainable technologies from several companies to make the Modesto plant more environmentally friendly.
The issues, if completely software-related, can be fixed by Tesla engineers. While the Semi is much different than its passenger vehicles, Tesla has a reputation for having some of the best software in the EV industry. There would likely be much more concern if these breakdowns could be attributed to a part failure or range depletion.
Tesla already displayed the Semi’s capabilities with a full load during the unveiling event in December, showing the all-electric class 8 truck traveling 500 miles on a single charge. We were not told about or made aware of any hardware failures or breakdowns that were caused by parts failures.
The problems with the Semi are likely expected by both Tesla and Frito-Lay as it is still an early-stage vehicle that is being rolled out in a very limited fashion.
Frito-Lay/PepsiCo. did not immediately respond to our request for comment.
Tesla is still moving forward with its plans to expand Semi production in Nevada, as earlier this year, it announced it would build a $3.5 billion expansion to Giga Nevada.
As for Frito-Lay and PepsiCo’s facility in Modesto, there is no indication that they will let a few early issues with the Semi ruin their fleet. In fact, the facility is set to have Megachargers installed at its plant in Fresno, California.
As far as we know, the Semi is still operating daily. Yesterday, it was spotted in Sacramento.
The big picture is that vehicles break down, and new vehicles sometimes have issues that need to be ironed out. It doesn’t mean the project is a failure or that the Semi is doomed to be a dud. It’s the growing pains of the Semi operation.