High-tech trucks on the highway: this is claimed as the first partnership between a logistics enterprise and a truck manufacturer to develop networked truck convoys and test their use in real operating conditions.
DB Schenker and MAN have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to that effect and are initially planning to define the fundamental conditions for the project and subsequent practical trials. In 2018, they plan to operate a truck platoon on the Digital Motorway Testbed on the A9 motorway between the DB Schenker branches in Munich and Nuremberg. The second phase will involve the deployment of self-driving trucks on the DB Schenker grounds in Nuremberg.
Platooning refers to a system of vehicles for use in road traffic in which at least two trucks drive on the motorway with only a short distance between them with the help of technical driver assistance and control systems. All the vehicles in the platoon are linked up to each other by means of electronic ‘drawbars’ in the form of car-to-car communication. The leading vehicle determines the speed and direction.
The distance between the individual trucks is around ten metres, equivalent to roughly half a second’s driving time. The electronic links between the individual vehicles in the platoon guarantee the safety of operations. The primary objective of this procedure is to enable slipstreaming and thus achieve fuel savings of up to ten per cent for the entire platoon. The reduction in fuel consumption also reduces carbon emissions.
Joachim Drees, chairman of the executive boards of MAN SE and MAN Truck & Bus, emphasized the advantages of truck platoons from the point of view of the vehicle manufacturer: “Platooning is a real benefit to transport safety. Human error is unfortunately one of the most frequent causes of rear-end collisions. Linking trucks together electronically provides us with a promising approach to this problem. Slipstreaming brings a major reduction in fuel consumption in the process. At the same time, platooning will enable us to make much more efficient use of the transport infrastructure.”
He also underlined, however, that important pre-conditions for making platooning a standard procedure have yet to be created. “Whether the concept can be realised on a wide scale will depend to a large extent on the legal framework. MAN will offer such a system once the legal setting for it has been created.”
In the first phase of the project, DB Schenker and MAN Truck & Bus will clarify the fundamental issues for trial operations, identify suitable scenarios for testing platooning operations and define the technical and logistical requirements for the compilation of platoons. Another project area will deal with the collection and provision of the necessary information and the use of that information by the truck manufacturer and logistics specialist.
The partners will also look at the scope for combining platooning with other digital services as well as questions of costs and savings potential.