Downton Chief Fleet Engineer Geoff Wright discussed the topic of HGV Platooning with BBC Radio Gloucestershire’s Jonathan Ray on Friday, following the Government’s go ahead for trials.
Citing it as an exciting prospect, Geoff argues that there is a current lack of understanding given that there are no details about the development of the scheme. All that is known at this stage is that trials will be carried out in an off-road test environment and drivers will still be required in the trailing vehicles.
“Anything that makes us more efficient and operating safer on the roads has got to be a good idea.” Downton Chief Fleet Engineer Geoff Wright said.
Geoff speculates that a reduction in the vehicle MPG, a reduction in driver fatigue, a decrease in vehicles emissions and a general improvement of safety on the roads are benefits the industry can expect from the scheme.
Following a recent discussion with the UK’s leading manufacturers in the industry, Geoff confidently stated that there is a potential to save 10% on fuel, which is immense for a vehicle that only achieves 10-11 miles per gallon.
Geoff talks of concerns with three vehicles travelling very close to each other, with consideration required for other road users who many not be aware of what the trucks are capable of. As a result, he argues, the scheme must ensure a quick reaction time, particularly in the event that traffic stops very quickly.
There are concerns in the industry with the use of Wi-Fi and hacking. Geoff Wright says, “Ten years ago this might have worried me, but today we improve daily and technology is advancing at such an alarming rate.
The trucks already feature lane departure, so the second a truck wanders out of its lane an alarm is sounded. The technology is already running faster than we can keep up with it, so I’m sure by the time this becomes a reality, any fears around this would have been removed. And the risk of hacking is already prevalent today.”
Geoff is careful to point out that this semi-automation still requires drivers. In his understanding, drivers are still required for when the vehicle exits the motorways to be able to transport the load to their final destination, and we should be reminded that this is just for motorway use.