While it’s currently only under development throughout Europe (not including the UK), experts say that the method of transportation/communication called ‘truck platooning’ has the potential to change the face of the transport industry in the future.
What Is It?
Put simply, truck platooning is more or less what it says on the tin. A number of lorries equipped with sophisticated driving support systems drive in close formation in a ‘platoon’ or convoy. Because the lorries are linked together with smart technology, the state-of-the-art communication system facilitates a constant driving configuration that produces a number of overarching benefits not just to haulage companies but also to other road users and the environment.
With the implementation of smart technology, the practice has the ability to provide greatly enhanced safety. As the lorries travel in close proximity to one another, when the leading vehicle brakes, the action is communicated to the rest of the convoy and they also brake instantaneously negating the effects of reaction time. This zero reaction time has the potential for huge advantages in terms of safety on the roads for lorry drivers and the wider driving community.
Greater Cost Savings
Truck platooning enables multiple lorries to travel at a steady speed and closer together. In terms of the bottom line (and the environment) this means lower CO2 emissions and reduced fuel consumption.
Improved Traffic Flow
The third and final benefit is in the great improvement of traffic flow. Because the vehicles travel closer together, they take up less room on the roads and therefore traffic flow is boosted efficiently, resulting in a reduction of tailbacks.
The development has the backing and investment of some of the biggest names in the transport industry includingScania, Volvo, DAF Trucks and Iveco. In 2016, the European Truck Platooning Challenge became the first initiative to test cross-border platooning, with Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Germany all taking part. Using Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) a number of lorries took part in the challenge, driving from various cities in Europe to converge on the Netherlands.
Vehicle manufacturers Daimler, MAN, Volvo Trucks, Scania, DAF Trucks and IVECO were all represented, promoting education around the aspects of fuel efficiency, road safety and environmental and social issues. The drivers used were a mixture of professional testers and normal hauliers, who had been trained in ITS and were familiar with the concept.
The challenge was hailed a success overall, although a number of risks were identified by the testers, including regular road users ‘cutting in’, drivers losing their place in the platoon and drivers’ spacial awareness i.e. getting used to being part of an ‘entity’ rather than a singular unit.
An Opportunity for the Future
While there is still a way to go before the development becomes mainstream in Europe (and yet no testing has been implemented in the UK), generally it’s being seen as a positive initiative. Many experts believe there is a great potential to even go beyond the transport industry to offer genuine and exciting innovations within other logistics and mobility sectors.
Norman Dulwich is a Correspondent for Haulage Exchange, the leading online trade network for the road transport industry. Connecting professionals across the UK and Europe through their website, Haulage Exchange provides a valuable service, updating members with the latest information on issues like road safety, fuel costs, technology, truck platooning and other news from the industry. Matching delivery work with available vehicles, over 4,000 transport exchange businesses are networked together through their website, trading jobs and capacity in a safe 'wholesale' environment.
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