Platooning – Efficient Trucking or Dangerous?


Photo by Wolfgang Hasselmann on Unsplash

As the trucking industry contends with supply chain issues and a continued so-called “truck driver shortage,” many experts are looking for ways to improve efficiency. One solution that has been getting a lot of attention recently is computer-assisted platooning.

What Is Platooning?

Platooning is when several trucks travel together. Especially when traveling behind a primary truck in front, platooning can save fuel consumption by traveling with less air resistance for the following trucks.

Additionally, a single line of trucks has the potential to be safer for the roads, rather than a more scattershot free-for-all that exists currently.

Is Platooning a Solution to Current Trucking Woes?

With diesel coming at a premium cost, saving fuel is already a win for the trucking industry, but some trucking businesses want to go beyond that.

Multiple drivers and trucks could essentially travel as a pack, and these drivers may even experience less common driver fatigue as less concentration is required to simply follow a lead truck. All trucks could coordinate with speed and when to brake, and this could be aided with computer programs to help synchronize.

Some also expect that platooning could be assisted with autonomous trucks. We know that autonomous trucks are not yet ready for prime time, so current truck drivers shouldn’t worry. But if there is a driver in the leading truck of a platoon, the autonomous technology could help by having a fleet of driverless trucks follow that lead truck.

One driver, many trucks. The lead truck driver would have to do additional work to control the supposedly “autonomous” trucks following them, but this type of platoon could multiply how much freight each driver is responsible for.

More Research Is Needed – And a Mix of Autonomous and Real Drivers?

LouisianaState University is currently researching issues related to truck platooning on highways. With the help of a $183,000 grants from the Louisiana Board of Regents, Hany Hassan, an assistant professor in transportation engineering, is researching the optimal methods of truck platooning.

Hassan is looking into the most efficient number of trucks, whether the trucks should travel in one lane or two, and how civilian traffic can safely maneuver around these large platoons.

According to Hassan, “The project isn’t meant to take away jobs from truck drivers but increase traffic safety, since many truck drivers do get tired and fall asleep while behind the wheel.”

Hassan continued with more details about how this could affect truck drivers, “It will take decades before we reach 100% automation. In the near future, however, we will see a mix of autonomous vehicles and real drivers.”