Platooning Makes a Step Closer to Becoming Reality

By Billy Gardner - 

A government-funded trial will begin in spring 2019 to test, for the first time, a three-truck platoon in live traffic, fulfilling real delivery contracts using real delivery routes.

traffic moving fast on a motorway exit

First On-Road Trial

This will be phase one of an £8.5 million government scheme which will test the viability of platooning for real operators. If the first phase is successful, a second will take place towards the end of 2019.

What is a Platoon?

A quick recap for those of you who have not been following the discussions. A platoon of HGVs refers to a group of vehicles electronically grouped in a way which decreases the distance between the trucks. The hope is that it will increase the capacity of roads.

How Will It Work?

This experiment will focus on a group of three wirelessly-connected DAF HGVs. The trucks will be driven by DAF engineers who will be able to fully test the equipment out on the roads.

In the second phase, these vehicles will become part of a DHL fleet, driven by DHL drivers and taking on real delivery contracts and routes. The head of TRL Academy, Richard Cuerden, is leading the pilot. He said that, by working with DHL, the Academy will be able to see whether platooning could really work for normal operators.

The trucks will run for 30,000 miles all across the motorway network fulfilling delivery contracts. Half the time they will be wirelessly-linked and drive in convoy and, for a comparison, they also will drive individually for half the distance.

How Are the Trucks Controlled?

In this trial, a lead driver controls the convoy whilst two others are ready to take over if they are needed. The drivers will be DHL drivers but will be specially trained to operate the convoy.

What Will We Find Out?

What are we hoping to actually find out from this ground-breaking trial? First and foremost, those running the test are interested in safety – whether a platoon can move safely through real traffic. Three HGVs take up a lot of space, so does grouping them pose a risk? They are also looking at emission levels and fuel consumption, as well as how the group of HGVs affects other road users.

Does it seem likely to you that we will see delivery contracts fulfilled via platoons in the near future? What are the pros and cons of this method for operators? Though this experiment will answer some questions, others may be left unanswered for now.

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