You’re heading home after a hard days work. Traffic is heavy, it usually is during rush hour, but at least it’s moving. Six lanes of cars, SUV’s, and motorcycles all heading west at 60 MPH, and right down the middle—one lane of truck trains. One driver in the lead truck with several trailers linked electronically. It’s called platooning. Sound like a futurescape or something from a science fiction movie? Think again, Volvo has been platooning trucks and cars in Europe since 2009

It could be here Sooner than you Think

“Advancements in connectivity will bring the first truck platoons to U.S. highways in the near future, paving the way for radical changes in the freight transportation network, executives with Volvo Group said.” — Transport Topics But it’s not only the tech advancements that could hasten truck platooning.

 Platooning will Save Fuel

Truck drivers have known for decades about the fuel-efficiency benefits of drafting—closely following a leading truck to reduce wind resistance. But drafting is incredibly dangerous. A human driver’s baseline reaction time is about half a second, not nearly enough to respond to a braking truck just a few feet ahead.– Fortune.com.

In a study of a two-truck platooning system conducted by the North American Council for Freight Efficiency they found, “Using the industry standard SAE Type II test, showed reductions in fuel consumption of 10% for the rear commercial vehicle and by more than 4% for the front vehicle.”– Trucking info.com. The trucking industry lives and dies on saving fractions of pennies; when fractions are multiplied by millions of miles—they add up. Anything that saves fuel helps trucking, and anything that helps trucking helps the economy.

Platooning can Supplement the Driver Shortage

The trucking industry is woefully short of drivers. Current estimates put the shortage at 30 to 40,000 drivers, and it’s not going to get better. With the average age of today’s drivers nearing 50, baby boomers retiring, and younger people not attracted to the industry, that number could rise to over 100,000 in less than five years.

Platooning could Improve Safety

It is possible, even likely, that platooning could improve safety statistics. Putting the controls into the hands of one highly qualified driver/technician could make an impact; giving that technician the latest in technology and automation—even better.

Are You Ready?

It may not be far in the future before we all share the highways with trains of trailers, but they’ll have to share it with us in our self-driving cars. Is the left lane the platooning lane or the self-driving lane?