Dutch business is keen to go forward with truck platooning, as evidenced at the European Truck Platooning Challenge earlier this week. Albert Heijn, Jumbo and Unilever want to conduct increased testing of freight shipments with self-driving trucks moving in a convey along the highway.

On April 6, Minister Melanie Schultz van Haegen (Infrastructure and the Environment) welcomed at Maasvlakte II six columns of trucks that had driven from several European cities to Rotterdam during the previous days.

A global first, the European Truck Platooning Challenge, organized by Rijkswaterstaat, featured DAF Trucks, Daimler Trucks, Iveco, MAN Truck & Bus, Scania and Volvo Group, driving in platoons across national borders. Truck platooning means that two or three trucks connected by Wi-Fi drive in a column, with the first truck determining the speed and route.

This enables shorter gaps between following trucks while freeing space for other vehicles. The Wi-Fi connection between the trucks ensures synchronized braking and can prevent sudden jolt/shock effects. This is good news for traffic flows and speeds up deliveries. Truck platooning can realize up to 10 percent fuel savings, as well as reducing CO2 emissions, resulting in significant savings for businesses.

Cleaner and more efficient transport

“The results of this first ever major try-out in Europe are promising,” said Minister Schultz van Haegen. “Truck platooning ensures that transport is cleaner and more efficient. Self-driving vehicles also improve traffic safety because most traffic accidents are due to human error. As the test shows, the technology has come a long way already. What it also makes clear is that we Europeans need to better harmonize rules of the road and rules for drivers. This will open the door for upscaled, cross-border truck platooning.”

According to Erik Jonnaert, secretary-general of ACEA, the European umbrella organization representing the six truck manufacturers involved, platooning is more efficient, safer and kinder to the environment than traditional trucking.

“Platooning also reinforces the leadership position of our automotive industry in terms of new technology; this also boosts Europe’s competitive position in the global marketplace,” Jonnaert said. “Meanwhile, there are still plenty of barriers in place that hinder the launch of this technology. With this in mind, it is good that the Netherlands has taken the lead in positioning these topics high on the European agenda. Cooperation within the EU is crucial in preventing the development of a patchwork of local rules and procedures, strangling progress.”

International differences

The challenge opened on March 29 with the departure of the first convoy of trucks from a number of European cities. Columns of trucks from DAF Trucks, Daimler Trucks, Iveco, MAN Truck & Bus, Scania and Volvo Group drove from Sweden, Germany and Belgium to Rotterdam.

As shown by the test, each country has different procedures for allowing trucks to drive in platoons. Right now, a truck manufacturer has to make separate applications for every country to be crossed. And every manufacturer has its own Wi-Fi system, which prevents the various brands from platooning together.

The requirement for truck platoons to carry dedicated number plates in certain countries has been scrapped, and stopping at the border to change plates is now a thing of the past.

Matching road users and developments

The Dutch business community and the transport sector see good potential for truck platooning. Unilever, Albert Heijn and Jumbo are in discussions with the government and transport sectors on ways to deploy truck platooning. Looking ahead, in due course, truck platoons will drive from the Port of Rotterdam, delivering goods across Europe.

Over the past few days the platoons have been closely monitored and filmed from the air. This will identify how other traffic responds to the columns. Meanwhile, a joint study is underway with the Royal Dutch Touring Club (ANWB) to see how road users can be actively involved in the introduction of truck platooning.