Mixed response to truck platooning trials

The Freight Transport Association (FTA) welcomed the £8.1m of government funding for live road trials into truck platooning, though the Road Haulage Association (RHA) was far more cautious.

The on-road platooning trials are set to take place next year, run by DHL and the TRL.

“Technology is the solution to emissions, road safety and managing costs,” said Christopher Snelling, the FTA’s head of national policy. “Platooning count be a real opportunities to optimise logistics on the road – we need to know if it is the way forward as soon as possible.”

RHA chief executive Richard Burnett said: “Of course we welcome improvements to the way the road freight industry works and we understand the benefits that such a mode of operation would bring.

“However, currently the focus seems to be on the technology behind the system. Safety has to come first and it cannot be compromised. It is crucial that this element of the concept gets the highest priority.”

Snelling highlighted the fact that platooning could be an innovative means of reducing fuel use so saving costs and reducing carbon and air quality emissions.

“Driving closely together, platoons of trucks take up less space on the road, and travelling at constant speeds can help improve traffic flows and reduce tailbacks,” he said.

“However, the system has to be shown to be safe on the roads and to deliver the promised benefits. The sooner the trial takes place, the sooner the UK logistics industry, which represents 11 per cent of the UK’s non-financial business economy, can know if this will be the right route for the future.”

The trials are being sponsored by the Department for Transport and Highways England and will be led by TRL.

Jim O’Sullivan, Highways England chief executive, said: “The trial has the potential to demonstrate how greater automation of vehicles – in this instance, HGVs – can deliver improvements in safety, better journeys for road users and reduction in vehicle emissions. 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.”

TRL will lead a consortium of partners including DAF and DHL in the £8.1 million trial. Chief executive Rob Wallis said: “TRL and its consortium of leading international partners, have the practical and technical knowledge gained from previous projects to understand what is required to put a connected vehicle platoon on to UK roads safely. The team are now taking that expertise and uniquely applying it within live traffic operations.”
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