If you saw the reports on the news over the bank holiday about truck platooning, then like us, you may have checked the date to see if it was April Fools Day. Nope – this is a genuine scheme which involves connecting a number of articulated lorries so they can run together on motorways using a Wi-Fi connection. The UK is trialling its application for three trucks, although that may increase if the test is successful.

The scheme is currently under test in Germany and is proving highly popular with operators as it reduces fuel consumption and CO2 omissions considerably. The lead lorry provides a wind break for those following thus reducing the drag, and it controls braking and accelerating for all the vehicles. Some claim that the system produces a steadier speed which in turn could improve road safety.

Whilst we’re sceptical about how well this will work on the UK’s congested, stop-start motorways, this is becoming a reality and as much as we can see the downsides, we must also consider the benefits and the attraction to the larger, long-distance fleets. We suspect the trials will take place at night and involve some of the national freight operators.

Chris Snelling of the FTA said “after first announcing the platooning trial in November 2016, it is imperative that government now moves plans forward quickly and efficiently to enable the logistics sector to plan efficiently for the future”.

“Technology is the solution to emissions, road safety and managing costs,” concludes Mr Snelling. “Platooning could be a real opportunity to optimise logistics on the road – we need to know if it is the way forward as soon as possible.”

The Government has issued the following press release on the subject:

Lorries on motorways are a step closer to accelerating, braking and steering in sync through wireless technology, thanks to £8.1 million government funding for trials announced today (25 August 2017).

The ‘platooning’ trials will see up to 3 heavy goods vehicles, travelling in convoy, with acceleration and braking controlled by the lead vehicle. All the lorries in the platoon will always have a driver ready to take control at any time. If successful, this technology could have major benefits for motorists and businesses in the UK.

A row of lorries driving closer together could see the front truck pushing the air out of the way, making the vehicles in the convoy more efficient, lowering emissions and improving air quality.

The Transport Research Laboratory will carry out the trial, with funding provided by the Department for Transport and Highways England. It follows a government-funded feasibility study which recommended a trial to examine the benefits and viability of platooning.
Investing in this research shows we care about those using our roads, the economy and the environment, and safety will be integral as we take forward this work with TRL.

Similar trials have already been successfully carried out in Europe and the United States.

Please note that the image used with this story is for illustration purposes only, and whilst it shows two trucks in convoy they are not part of the platooning trials.