Commenting, Road Haulage Association chief executive Richard Burnett says the devil is in the detail.
“It is important to note that these trucks will not be driverless: each cab will be manned,” he says – explaining that ‘platooning’ means driving in close formation, usually using Telematics-based electronic coupling.
“When platooning trials eventually begin, they will be carried out ‘off road’ and will only be trialled on the motorway network when proven,” continues Burnett.
“On the plus side, this is a concept that certainly has benefits in terms of fuel saving – particularly in countries that have long stretches of roads without junctions – unlike the UK motorway network.”
And that is the nub of his concern: while he accepts that today’s haulage industry is increasingly IT-led, he wonders whether UK roads and, more importantly, road users are ready for it?
“The technologists have it all to prove. A lot of the elements that make it theoretically possible are already arriving in modern vehicles. But are motorists ready?”
“Is platooning practical for the haulier? Does it make operational sense and, critically, will it be safe practice on UK roads with so many junctions.”
The RHA will be working with the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles on the trials.
Platooning is designed to allow several trucks to accelerate or brake simultaneously. Grouping vehicles into platoons is a method of increasing the capacity of roads, and potentially saving fuel and emissions.