Many experts in the trucking industry are deliberating the effectiveness of platooning—a method of decreasing fuel expenses by allowing multiple fleets to draft off one another. While some heavy haul truckers have been drafting off of large rigs to save fuel for years, new technology is being developed to offer a safer and more efficient way to accomplish this. A system is being tested that would allow large trucks to drive in formation with each other, with the “pack” of fleets connected to one another by sensors and radar technology. Ostensibly, this would synchronize the trucks so that if the lead truck brakes, the other trucks in the convoy would brake as well, although the driver retains control. The lead truck would also be equipped with a radar sensor at the front of the cab, offering it the ability to detect obstacles up to 800 feet in the distance—farther than the human eye can see. If an unexpected obstacle presented itself or another vehicle cut the lead truck off, the entire convoy can automatically brake in one-hundredth of a second, as opposed to the few seconds it would take a human to react. This can make heavy haul transport a tightly-contained and more efficient operation.
While the technology seems advantageous, its efficiency is dependent on the right conditions. The roads, weather, and traffic would have to be within the approved conditions to be safe. Additionally, there are state highway laws regulating the approved distance between vehicles that could stand in the way of implementing platooning. The average distance between two fleets would be 50 – 80 feet, but that would also be dependent on traffic and weather conditions. Another concern is the possibility of hackers getting access to the cloud-based system and controlling the fleet without authorization. This is a scary possibility that has deterred many in heavy haul transport from supporting the largely automated platooning technology. However, developers of the platooning system have insisted that the communications are encrypted and have a small chance of being compromised.
In spite of the deterrents of the system, the potential fuel savings are hard to ignore. In an industry that spends more than $140 billion annually, platooning can quickly become lucrative. Studies have shown that lead trucks can save 4.5 percent on fuel while following trucks can save upwards of 10 percent. Despite concerns by those that are skeptic about the technology, the system is being tested and invested in on a large scale.
At LTA Logistics, safe and economical heavy haul transport remains a top priority for our transport specialists. If you have needs related to the transport of large cargo, don’t hesitate to contact us at (888) 502-0582 for information about our services.