The Next Level of Truck Platooning

The trucking industry has used platooning, or drafting, for years and is now adding semi-autonomous driving technology to create level 2 truck platooning. It’s likely to be a game changer for highway truck fuel efficiency.

The Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) has begun phase one of a project to test level 2 truck platooning and create a concept of operations and design. Great Dane is a part of the research and development, which seeks to demonstrate the safety benefits, fuel savings and emission reductions achieved by extending vehicle automation to freight truck platoons.

Level 2 truck platooning is an extension of cooperative adaptive cruise control that uses automated lateral and longitudinal vehicle control, while maintaining a tight formation of vehicles with short following distances. A platoon is led by a manually driven truck. The drivers of the following truck(s) can disengage from driving tasks and monitor the system performance.

Research suggests that platooning technology can provide a 5 to 20 percent fuel savings, depending on the gap, speed, number of vehicles and location of a vehicle within a platoon. Platooning also offers other benefits, such as emission reductions, additional vehicle safety features and increased highway throughput.

Great Dane has donated two 48-foot trailers that will be used in the test demonstration and is also providing technical assistance within the research team. Great Dane engineers participated in equipment and calibration tests and a successful public demonstration held early this summer in Texas.

Ultimately this concept can become reality when states, the Federal Highway Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation designate platooning lanes (similar to high occupancy vehicle [HOV] commuter lanes in many states) where properly outfitted trucks can join to platoon.

Of course, safety is a major concern for Great Dane and other project participants. As a transportation solutions leader, Great Dane champions the needs of our customers by ensuring the safe and efficient delivery of goods, which some day could include truck platooning with semi-autonomous driving technology.