Logistics truck platooning trial offers ‘great potential’

The results of the world’s first field test of truck platooning in real logistics operations have found that operating electronically-linked trucks on German motorways is safe, technically reliable and easily integrated into the processes of a logistics company, according to the project partners.

During the project – involving logistics company DB Schenker, MAN Truck & Bus and Fresenius University of Applied Sciences – researchers tested two electronically-linked vehicles over seven months on a stretch of German motorway between Nuremberg and Munich.

The professional drivers involved, who covered 35,000 kilometres during the test, drove only 15 to 21 metres apart, but praised the driving comfort and general sense of safety. The project, sponsored by the country’s Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure, also showed savings in fuel consumption.

According to the partners, the use of truck platoons could help to ensure more efficient use of space on motorways, reduce congestion and increase road safety.

“The mobility of the future will be automated and networked. Of course, this is also true for logistics,” said Andreas Scheuer, Federal Minister for Transport and Digital Infrastructure.

“I therefore fully support the industry in bringing technologies such as platooning to market maturity. We want to make the processes even safer, more efficient and more environmentally friendly, all along the value chain. The drivers have a key role to play here. In a digital truck they will be modern logistics specialists. This will open up new prospects for the profession.”

DB Schenker said that platooning could be used extensively in the logistics network, following further testing and with the correct regulatory framework in place. “We have analyzed our European transport network and it is safe to say that around 40% of the kilometers traveled could be carried out in platoons,” said Alexander Doll, Member of the Management Board for Finance, Freight Transport and Logistics at Deutsche Bahn AG.

The pilot project also demonstrated a 3 to 4 percent reduction in fuel consumption and required fewer driver interventions than originally expected.

“We were able to show that platooning has the potential to contribute to the reduction of fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. First and foremost, we are pleased that the system works reliably and can increase safety on the motorway. Accordingly, platooning is an important step for us on the way to automation,” said Joachim Drees, Chairman of the Management Board of MAN Truck & Bus SE.

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