The Road Haulage Association has reacted with caution to the announcement of trials for the ‘platooning’ of trucks.
Commenting, RHA chief executive Richard Burnett said: “At the outset, it is important to note that these trucks will not be ‘driverless’. Each cab will be manned. As far as we are concerned, this is an issue where the devil lies in the detail.”
The term ‘platooning’ describes a driving formation whereby decreasing distances between trucks using electronic, and possibly mechanical, coupling. This capability would allow a number of trucks to accelerate or brake simultaneously. Grouping vehicles into platoons is a method of increasing the capacity of roads.
Richard Burnett continued: “When platooning trials eventually begin, they will be carried out ‘off road’ and will only be trialled on the motorway network when proven off-road. On the plus side, this is a concept that certainly has benefits in terms of fuel saving; particularly in those countries that have long stretches of roads without junctions – unlike the UK motorway network.
“Today’s UK haulage industry is increasingly IT-led. However, are UK roads and, more importantly, other road users ready for it?
“The technologists have it all to prove. A lot of the elements of this that make it theoretically possible are already starting to arrive in modern vehicles. But are motorists ready for the technological advances that will make this concept possible?”
Concluding, Richard Burnett said: “In addition to the concerns of the motorist, is platooning practical for the haulier? Does it make operational sense and, critically, will it be safe practice on UK roads with so many junctions.”
The Road Haulage Association will be working with the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles and will be following the trials with keen interest.