We don’t normally work on emerging technologies, instead we focus our efforts on fuel efficiency technology solutions that are commercially available on the market today. We tend to keep a pretty tight focus on where we expend our energies because we want to see an improvement in freight efficiency NOW.
But, I can’t help but be inquisitive and excited about things that appear particularly promising.
For me, these days one opportunity that I keep thinking about is platooning. About this time last year, we were involved with CR England and Peloton Technologies in a fuel test to validate the fuel efficiency of platooning.
Just to review, platooning involves two trucks following one another at a pre-set distance. In the case of our test, that distance was 36 feet. The trucks rely on radar and wireless communication to operate. The idea is to leverage shared data via a vehicle-to-vehicle system with a goal of improving safety and reducing fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. The fuel efficiency improvement is the result of a decrease in aerodynamic drag, on both tractor-trailers.
Peloton’s system uses radar-based collision mitigation equipment and V2V communication technology to allow two tractor trailers to platoon. The test we were involved with took place west of Salt Lake City along Interstate 80. The trucks were configured to remain 36 feet apart and travel 64 miles per hour. CR England supplied the trailers and test protocol, which were run using a modified SAE J1321 fuel-economy comparison test.
The results: A 10% fuel consumption reduction for the trailing tractor-trailer AND a 4.5% improvement for the lead truck. For more details, go to http://nacfe.org/projects/ to download the complete report on the project.
Those are some pretty impressive gains and it wouldn’t require a great deal of “percent of time platooning” for this technology to have a very short payback period. We are happy to hear that Peloton says it welcomes fleets to be part of its piloting process and that it hopes to have a commercially available system on the market late next year.
Of course, we’re not abandoning our focus on urging fleets to add fuel saving technology to their trucks and manufacturers to continue to develop products that cut fuel costs. However, we can’t help but hope that the idea of platooning continues to develop because it shows so much promise.
Who knows, maybe before too long it will be at a point where it is commercially available and we’ll do a Confidence Report to provide an objective evaluation of its benefits, consequences and true fuel savings.