Truck Platooning may be the future of road freight transport. Trucks drive ‘cooperatively’ at less than 1 second apart from each other, made possible by automated driving technologies and results in lower fuel consumption for all the trucks in the platoon. Platooning also improves productivity, because the driver can rest in the second truck while driving. Other benefits include fewer traffic accidents, safer traffic for other drivers, less congested roads and lower carbon emissions.
The current political and economic climate is positive for a broad deployment of platooning. For example in the Netherlands, initial legislation amendments are being proposed to allow testing and experimentation on Dutch roads. To better develop the potential of this system-wide innovation, a cooperative or joint research programme is underway, based on open innovation principles. In the programme, partners can jointly work towards commercial deployment of platooning to implement a safe, reliable and efficient two-truck platooning concept by 2020.
The concept of truck platooning comes from linking road to the rail experience and a truck platoon can be considered to be very similar to ‘a short train’ being driven on the road and consisting of several trucks driving very closely behind each other. The time /distance between them can be as low as 0.3 seconds. Driving so close together is only made possible by advanced Automated Driving technology and wireless vehicle-to-vehicle communication so that the vehicles can communicate with each other using ITS rather than human support.
By driving this close behind each other the aerodynamic drag on each truck is decreased, resulting in 10% or more lower fuel consumption, which in turn leads to a decrease in CO2 emissions. Furthermore, safety is improved by using advanced technologies to assist the driver in the leading truck: these include camera systems, radar and other sensors are examples of these technologies. Truck platooning can also decrease labor costs, since drivers can rest or perform administrative work while sitting in the following trucks of the platoon.
A demonstration of truck platooning was given by truck manufacturer DAF and TNO (a Dutch research institute), who worked together in the EcoTwin project. Two cooperative driving trucks drove close each other on a regular highway. Unique in this demonstration was that the driver of the second truck had no steering tasks: the throttle, brakes and steering were automatically operated. Even though a driver is still present in the second truck, over time this second driver may potentially no longer be necessary.
However, in order for this to become widespread, some barriers have to be overcome. The most important challenges are technical and legal ones, among which are controlling the platoon in all circumstances and adjusting to national and EU legislation. Nonetheless, the results of investments in research and development look very promising and the potential to improve freight movement with platooning is high. Research on this topic is currently underway in the Netherlands, and in other places across Europe (for instance by Scania and Volvo) and in the USA (Freightliner).
Truck platooning is an interesting innovation with a high potential impact on efficiency (lower fuel and labor costs), emission reductions, improved safety and a better utilization of road capacity.
Successful pilot projects in the United States and in Europe could rapidly be scaled up and adopted by truck companies who are willing to install the necessary soft- and hardware.
New legislation and regulations are required to allow for a large-scale market uptake of platooning.
Europe and USA
Europe, North America, Mitigation, Frieght, Technology
Bastiaan Krosse firstname.lastname@example.org