Looks Like We Got Us a Convoy: HGV Platooning Trial is Go!

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The term ‘truck platooning’ refers to a number of haulage vehicles, equipped with high-tech driving aid systems, closely following each other. Driven by smart technology, with their onboard computers in constant communication, predictions are that this innovative method could make truck driving safer and more time- and fuel-efficient, help reduce emissions, and make traffic flow smoother. Another advantage is that it has the potential to be a great money saver for haulage companies around the country.

The HGV platooning trial is a ‘go’ for next spring. Three wirelessly connected DAF trucks will be driven by DAF experts themselves in this first part of the experiment. If all goes well, the government, which has funded the first trial to the tune of £8.5 million, will launch a second test in the latter half of 2019. The technology will then be incorporated into the DHL Supply Chain’s daily delivery operation, to be operated by specially trained drivers.

Each truck contains a specially trained driver. The lead vehicle, manned by the lead driver, will operate the convoy during the platooning process, while the others are left on standby in case direct intervention is urgently required.

First Phase

The first phase will be predominantly about getting the state-of-the-art onboard computers used to the routes, under genuine, fluctuating conditions of load and weather strain. In short, it’s about working out whether the idea, which excels in theory, has a real-life, real-time pragmatic application out there in the big, broad world of trucking.

Highways England, the state owned company that operates and maintains the nation’s motorways, is setting the conditions of the test and the body is confident in the success of the initiative.

Second Phase

The second phase will take the concept even further and test it even more rigorously. Technology-enriched trucks will travel 15,000 miles around the UK. Other lorries, without computers, will also run 15,000 miles, to act as a direct comparison of old style against new technology.

This second trial will examine how truck platooning operates under the strain of a real life delivery service. This stage will answer a series of important questions:

• Does it help ease the flow of motorway networks?
• Will it reduce fuel consumption?
• Can it reduce the amount of carbon emissions produced?
• How does it improve the impact of haulage vehicles on other motorway users?
• And, most importantly, is platooning safe to operate in real traffic?

DHL’s involvement – assuming the success of the first phase – will be a great litmus test for other haulage companies. The entire industry will be looking on with a great deal of interest and curiosity at the results, which will provide enough data to inform other operators about the merits and uses of platooning, as well as any failings or concerns.

Industry experts are in agreement that 2019 is set to be a fascinating and exciting year for the technological evolution of road transportation. No doubt UK haulage companies and truck drivers will be following the news and counting the beans intently. If all goes to plan, the UK and European HGV industry could look very different in 2020 and beyond.
About author: Desiree Michels

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 services for matching haulage companies or self-employed drivers with jobs in road transport and haulage work. 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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