Dutch business is keen to go forward with truck platooning. As evidenced at yesterday’s European Truck Platooning Challenge, in the period ahead Albert Heijn, Jumbo and Unilever want to conduct increased testing of freight shipments with trucks driving in “trains” along the highway. On Wednesday 6th April, minister Schultz van Haegen (Infrastructure and the Environment) welcomed six columns of trucks at Maasvlakte II, which had driven from a number of European cities to Rotterdam over the past several days.
The European Truck Platooning Challenge, organised by Rijkswaterstaat, featured DAF Trucks, Daimler Trucks, Iveco, MAN Truck & Bus, Scania and Volvo Group; driving in platoons across national borders this marked a global first. Truck platooning means that two or three trucks connected by wifi drive in a column, with the first truck determining the speed and route. This enables shorter gaps between following trucks, while freeing space for other vehicles. The wifi connection between the trucks ensures synchronised braking and can prevent sudden jolt/shock effects. This is good news for traffic flows and speeds up deliveries. Truck platooning can realise up to ten per cent fuel savings. As well as reducing CO2 emissions, this can also mean a significant savings for businesses.
Quoting minister Schultz van Haegen: “The results of this first ever major try-out in Europe are promising. Truck platooning ensures that transport is cleaner and more efficient. Self-driving vehicles also improve traffic safety because most traffic accidents are due to human error. As the test shows, the technology has come a long way already. What it also makes clear is that we Europeans need to better harmonise rules of the road and rules for drivers. This will open the door for upscaled, cross-border truck platooning. The hands-on experience gained here will be very useful in the informal European transport council on 14 April in Amsterdam. It will certainly help my colleagues and I discuss the adjustments needed to make self-driving transport a reality.”
According to Erik Jonnaert, secretary-general of ACEA, the European umbrella organisation representing the six truck manufacturers involved, the benefits of platooning go beyond road transport which is more efficient, safer and kinder to the environment. “Platooning also reinforces the leadership position of our automotive industry in terms of new technology; this also boosts Europe’s competitive position in the global marketplace. Meanwhile, there are still plenty of barriers in place, that hinder the launch of this technology. With this in mind it is good that the Netherlands has taken the lead in positioning these topics high on the European agenda. Cooperation within the EU is crucial in preventing the development of a patchwork of local rules and procedures, strangling progress.”
The Challenge opened on 29 March with the departure of the first “trains” of trucks from a number of European cities. Columns of trucks from DAF Trucks, Daimler Trucks, Iveco, MAN Truck & Bus, Scania and Volvo Group drove from Sweden, Germany and Belgium to Rotterdam. As shown by the test each country has differing procedures for allowing trucks to drive in platoons. Right now, a truck manufacturer has to make separate applications for every country to be crossed. And every manufacturer has its own wifi-system, which prevents the various brands from platooning together. The requirement for truck platoons to carry dedicated number plates in certain countries has been scrapped, and stopping at the border to change plates is now a thing of the past.
Matching road users and develoments
The Dutch business community and the transport sector in particular see good potential for truck platooning. Unilever, Albert Heijn and Jumbo are in discussions with the government and transport sectors on ways to deploy truck platooning. Looking ahead, in due course, truck platoons will drive from the Port of Rotterdam, delivering goods across Europe.
Over the past few days the platoons have been closely monitored and filmed from the air. This will identify how other traffic responds to the columns. Meanwhile, a joint study is underway with the Royal Dutch Touring Club (ANWB) to see how road users can be actively involved in the introduction of truck platooning.