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HGV Platooning Trials Take to the Roads in 2019

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For those making a living in any sector of the transport industry, keeping abreast of technology and infrastructure advances is a vital part of staying relevant and profitable in a challenging environment.

The word on a lot of industry lips at the moment is ‘platooning’, and business owners, logistics managers and truck drivers will be watching with interest as the first government backed and funded trial of on-road truck platooning begins in the UK, in 2019. This innovative initiative has the potential to impact the industry in a big way – not the least of which is making delivery contracts far more viable and attractive in terms of profitability.

First Things First

For anyone not familiar with the term, platooning is a system of two or more trucks driving in a convoy on a motorway, using connected technology to monitor and control their speed and distance. The truck at the front is the ‘lead’, while the following vehicles adapt to its movements, with minimal driver intervention. The benefits include:

• Less drag
• Fewer emissions
• Improved safety and efficiency
• Increased profitability of delivery contracts for haulage companies

Highways England and DAF on Board for Trials

Highways England has announced the first phase of the £8.5m trial will begin in the spring of 2019, followed by the second phase later in the year. Assuming the first phase is successful, as expected, in the second phase DHL Supply Chain will integrate platooning into their real-life operations, using specially trained drivers on selected delivery contracts.
HGV manufacturing giant DAF has also invested heavily in the concept. Not only are their wirelessly connected trucks forming the basis of the trial, but their engineers will be in the driving seats during the first phase.

Hitting the Road

In phase one, DAF’s engineers will hit the road fully loaded, to encounter the full gamut of real-life situations, which will include a range of weather conditions. This will give the engineers the opportunity see how the system works in all kinds of scenarios and make informed recommendations for any improvements. In the second stage, DHL’s involvement will help determine whether it is appropriate for all kinds of operators.

The system will be tested over 30,000 miles of roads, using a non-platooning fleet of comparison trucks in order to gauge the most accurate results. In terms of maximising driver safety, in the second stage, the DHL lead driver will have the backing of the other drivers ready to take control of their own vehicles at any time, should it be necessary.

The Questions to be Answered

Some of the factors the trial is looking to determine about HGV platoons are:

• Effect on traffic flow and network infrastructure
• Emission levels
• Fuel consumption
• Safety
• Impact on other road users

The announcement of the imminent onset of these trials should be of great interest to anyone in the transport industry. A successful outcome has the potential to change the face of many aspects of the logistics supply chain, including the way delivery contracts are costed and carried out.
About author: Desiree Michels

Norman Dulwich is a Correspondent for Haulage Exchange, the leading online trade network for the road transport industry. Connecting logistics professionals across the UK and Europe through their website, Haulage Exchange provides services for matching delivery contracts with available drivers. Over 5,400 member companies are networked together through the Exchange to fill empty capacity, get new clients and form long-lasting business relationships.

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