Some things we learned about two-truck platooning

Oct. 11, 2016

The word platooning can mean different things to different people. Our recently completed Confidence Report on the subject focuses on two-truck platooning where the drivers have their hands on the wheel but also have electronic assistance helping drive the vehicle.

It is sometimes called Driver Assisted Truck Platooning while others call it SAE Autonomous Level 1 or Level 2. Still others refer to it as platooning with longitudinal control or longitudinal control with lane keeping assistance. To be clear in on our Confidence Report we are NOT talking about hands free, eyes off, or full autonomous driving.

We undertook the report to provide some clarity about two-truck platooning and its impact on fuel economy. We assembled in one place more than 15 years of test results from various platooning tests in the U.S., Europe and Japan.  To make it easier to understand we presented test results in a summary table and used simple graphs for the lead and follower vehicles.

But the real world and controlled testing are different. Savings that fleets are likely to see in the real world will be different from what test results show so fleets need to understand actual savings maybe less than the controlled tests. Unfortunately at this point there is little real world on-highway testing.

Factors such as other traffic, congestion, cooling fan, adaptive cruise control speed changes, actual time in platoon and others will impact fuel savings for platooning once we move from controlled tests to actual use. But what we learned from combing through all that data is that two-truck platooning has the potential to result in significant fuel savings for both the lead and follower vehicle.  Something along the order of 4% for the pair of trucks with the majority of savings going to the follower truck.  See the report to understand how we came to this real-world average for the two trucks in the platoon.

Four percent fuel savings is pretty darn good and we hope that the industry continues to explore the use of two-truck platooning in real world conditions, as a way to get more realistic data so we can see just how much platooning can improve overall freight efficiency.  More in a few weeks on the “rest of the two-truck platooning story”.

About the Author

Michael Roeth | Executive Director

Michael Roeth has worked in the commercial vehicle industry for nearly 30 years, most recently as executive director of the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE). He serves on the second National Academy of Sciences Committee on Technologies and Approaches for Reducing the Fuel Consumption of Medium and Heavy-Duty Vehicles and has held various positions in engineering, quality, sales, and plant management with Navistar and Behr/Cummins.

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