“I’m hearing 3 to 5% fuel economy boost from platooning. The fuel economy benefits are pretty strong. That’s a lot at any fuel price per gallon.” — A mid-size fleet
Two-truck platooning is an emerging technology designed to boost fuel economy performance for tractor-trailers engaged in long- and regional-haul highway applications. Platooning combines existing commercial vehicle safety technology with emerging vehicle-to-vehicle communications and autonomous vehicle control technology to electronically “tether” tractor-trailers together in a convoy formation at highway speeds. Once a platoon of trucks is established, the vehicles, safety systems work in unison to draw the trucks together at significantly reduced following distances to overcome each vehicle’s inherent aerodynamic drag.
Fuel savings depend on many factors. At a 40 - 50 ft following distance directionally, the front truck can save 4% on fuel and the following truck can save 10%, giving an average of 7% (versus the two trucks not platooning). The fuel savings of two-truck platooning is likely a 4% average savings over the two trucks in real-world operating conditions after accounting for traffic, terrain and time when equipped trucks will not be operating in a platoon.
Comments about platooning center on things like the timeline for its implementation, fuel savings, following distances, driver acceptance, driver pay, cost, and platooning with other fleets.
“I’m thinking 2018 to 2030 before we see platooning operations on the road. There are still way too many studies that have to be done on this subject.” — A major truckload fleet manager
“It’s about finding the sweet spot with aerodynamic benefits for both the front and rear vehicles, but also spreading the gap somewhat gives the second driver more to look at and is less fatiguing.” — A private fleet manager
“We don’t think the cost will be as high as some groups are forecasting.” — A technology developer
“The driving experience with platooning has been very similar to normal truck driving today.” — A test truck driver
“We’re not sure [about platooning with other fleets]. It will be our position initially that we will not platoon with anyone else.” — A fleet manager
“While technology may support platooning quite well…I don’t see fleets willing to take the risk in our current environment with litigation.” — A fleet manager
The study team developed two tools to help fleets make decisions about two-truck platooning.