I am always searching for something that will drive the future of the transportation industry. I love the research and development aspect and I thoroughly enjoy gazing toward the future and what will not only make people’s business more profitable, but make the industry safer for everyone.
With fuel prices starting to creep back upward, I can’t help but think about the future of the truck. After all, trucks use a lot of fuel. Somewhere between 20 percent and 40 percent of the cost of shipping something by truck is consumed by fuel costs. Last summer, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency introduced new fuel standards for heavy-duty vehicles which call for tractor-trailers to reduce fuel consumption by 20 percent by 2018, with other standards continuing well into the next decade.
So, when I look at that future, I come up with nothing. Nada. Zilch. Nobody. Well, kind of.
Peloton Technology, Daimler Trucks and many other transportation and technology companies have been concentrating on driverless trucks, autonomous trucks and robotic trucking convoys. And tests as recent as March of this year have proven they work to conserve fuel, cut down on congestion, decrease carbon emissions and save money.
Actually, saying the future is nothing, or nobody, isn’t exactly accurate. Rather, the future is a lack of the human element in many of the aspects of driving the truck. While a human is currently required to occupy the driver’s seat in the truck, the computer would actually be controlling most, if not all aspects of the vehicle through vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure technology.
In March, Daimler connected, or platooned, three Mercedes big rigs on a stretch of the A52 autobahn in Germany. Each of the three trucks had an occupant in the driver’s seat who was capable of taking control of the truck in the event of a problem. The three trucks maintained a gap of just 50 feet between the trucks, rather than the 165-foot gap that would be considered the standard for a human driving the truck. That is because the computer can react much faster than a human by speeding up and slowing down with the lead vehicle. The test produced results showing an average of 7 percent fuel savings, 7 percent less emissions and cut the amount of road space required for the three trucks by half.
Peloton also conducted tests involving two-truck platoons and showed fuel savings of up to 4.5 percent for the lead truck and up to 10 percent for the following truck, or an average of about 7 percent savings. Peloton also showed the connected vehicles could respond to a vehicle cutting between the two vehicles, by slowing the following vehicle for a safe following distance, but remaining connected to the lead vehicle. In this test, the trucks were separated by just 36 feet traveling at 65 mph. Peloton said fuel consumption savings would increase as the convoy lengthens to more trucks.
In the Daimler test, all trucks were fully autonomous, while the lead truck in the Peloton tests was still fully driven by a human, while the trailing truck used radar and a wireless link to connect the trucks.
Technology is a wonderful thing and it continues to make life easier is many aspects. But we have to remember that the future of technology can not remove the human element, especially from trucking.
We continue to explore the improvement of Truckstop.com and its many products to help make your life easier and your business more profitable. Whether it is finding a load or a truck to haul a load, or if you’re looking for a transactional payment network, security or more, Truckstop.com is a great place to start. At the same time, we rely on humans making those decisions, whether it be in the truck or in the back office. We know we have what you need to make your more profitable. Call us today at 800-203-2540 and find out what we have to offer.
Founder and Chairman