Ever rising emission standards and the diesel being in discredit, makes it even more important to develop alternative fuel options for the road freight trucking industry and to discover further fuel saving possibilities.
One of these technologies that are being tested and refined is « truck platooning ». It is a technology that allows trucks to safely drive at a very small distance from each other, in order to benefit from aerodynamic advantages. The trucks can be as close as 12 meters from each other.
Just like cyclists in a race, the following truck takes advantage of the reduced high-pressure zone at the front due to the truck ahead of it. This can lead to fuel savings of up to 12%. Even the leading truck benefits from a reduced wake at its rear, and can cut its fuel consumption by approximately 5%. A wireless link between the trucks enables mutual braking and acceleration. Several truck manufacturing companies developed reliable technologies for this inter-vehicle communication, but challenges are always to overcome, which are not the technologies fault itself:
So far, truck platoons mostly consist of 2 trucks, as formations of more than 2 trucks would lead to platoons of about 90 meters long. This would cause trouble for other vehicles to drive on a highway or take an exit, if they are blocked by a platoon.Other difficulties are arising out of the need that the trucks always need to find one’s way back to each other, if the first truck is veering off, or if one of the drivers in the convoy has to take a break.
Additionally, if the loaded weight of the trucks or the engine power differs too much, some might not keep up with the convoy, and others might have to brake and accelerate too many times, in order to still be more fuel efficient than without the platoon.
However, in the future, with a more digitized road freight network and an advanced inter-communication between not only trucks, but also all other vehicles on the road, these challenges will be able to overcome.