The body leading a Government-funded trial into truck platooning has acknowledged that addressing the different performances of vehicles from different operators will be essential to the future of the technique.
Speaking at an industry event, Richard Cuerden, director of the TRL Academy, said that it was essential for platoons to be made up of trucks from different operators if the method is to be viable in future.
However, asked by Transport Network whether this would require trucks in a platoon to have similar performance in terms of power to weight ratios and other factors, Mr Cuerden acknowledged that this was an issue the trial would have to address.
DAF trucks in a platooning demonstration
He said: ‘Some of the challenges will be about the performance of the vehicles, both in acceleration terms and braking, and how the vehicles are loaded because you can have identical vehicles and load them differently. There’s an awful lot of knowledge that DAF, Ricardo and other partners bring in that light.
‘We’re going to trial this. We’re going to put it on the test track and we’re going to experiment with it. And there will be the detailed findings that are hidden sometimes in these sorts of reports that actually inform the business case. Because if it is so restricted that everything has to be the same, there is no business case, because operators can’t use the trucks.’
Jack Martens of DAF Trucks added: ‘Looking at the future, we are working now on a multi-brand solution so that we can communicate between brands.’
He said a system that registered and communicated the performance signature of each truck in a platoon was the most logical way forward: ‘Before you joint the platoon, you have to give more or less your passport that says, this is my performance.’
In August the Department for Transport (DfT) and Highways England commissioned transport research body TRL to lead an £8.1m operational trial of platooning vehicles on UK roads with partners including DAF Trucks and engineering and environmental consultancy Ricardo. Under the trial, vehicles will follow instructions transmitted by wi-fi from the lead vehicle in the platoon.