IRTE has ‘serious concerns’ about UK platooning trial23 October 2017

A leading road transport body says it has “serious concerns” about the suitability of the UK’s roads for the government’s planned platooning trial, due to begin next year.

The Institute of Road Transport Engineers (IRTE) points out that although similar trials have taken place in the US and Europe, the road conditions there are “vastly different”.

John Eastman, chair of the IRTE professional sector council, says: “The risks are extreme and the complications manifold. Drivers have a big enough job trying to pull out with a single vehicle, so if you have three vehicles trying to pull out into traffic, it could be very dangerous.

“There would also be concerns for other road users trying to exit the motorway being blocked off by the platoon, as well as restricted vision from adverse weather conditions. The responsibility of the driver is immense.”

Alternative road transportation measures, such as an articulated trailer or road trains, were not given the consideration they merited, according to Eastman, who says using two articulated trailers would be “a much more viable option”.

John Parry, chair of the irtec steering group, echoes the concerns, saying: “The number of intersections that we have on our motorways will make it very difficult to manage, especially if cars don’t realise there’s a platoon and try to go between vehicles. The safety aspect must be paramount and I think it overrides the possible benefits. The trials need to answer these important concerns.”

Funded by Highways England and Department for Transport, the £8.1m trial is set to begin next year, led by a consortium including TRL, DAF Trucks, Ricardo and DHL.

Laura Cork

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