ATRI study says truck platooning feasible in some operations

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Updated May 31, 2015
Freightliner’s marketed fuel savings of the platooning technology built in to its Inspiration semi-autonomous truck.Freightliner’s marketed fuel savings of the platooning technology built in to its Inspiration semi-autonomous truck.

The American Transportation Research Institute, an arm of the American Trucking Associations, released this week a report on its first phase of testing the feasibility truck platooning, and it concluded that Driver-Assistive Truck Platooning can see fuel benefits as high as 10 percent in trailing trucks.

The study, which was funded by a grant from the Department of Transportation, also concluded that truckload and line-haul LTL operations would likely benefit the most from platooning systems, and fleets and drivers whose average trips are 500 miles or more would  experience the highest returns on investment from platooning.

In addition to potential 10 percent fuel savings of the trailing truck, the lead truck in platoons could see a 5 percent bump in fuel conomy.

Other highlights from the report include:

  • Modelers at Auburn University confirmed that platooning would not negatively impact traffic flows, and could improve traffic flows if truck market penetration reached 60 percent;
  • Platoon formation in some operations appears to be feasible, based on a case study using actual truck movement data from ATRI’s truck GPS database;
  • Small fleets and owner-operators required an investment payback period of 10 months, while larger fleets had a mean payback expectation of 18 months.

In Phase 2 of ATRI’s platooning project, the research team will be conducting both test-track and on-road pilot testing of the system.  In addition, researchers will monitor and assess a variety of human factors considerations including driver satisfaction, driver training requirements and driver operational experiences.  The business case analysis will be extended based on these results.

The DATP research team is being led by Auburn University and includes ATRI, Bishop Consulting, Peloton Technology, Peterbilt Trucks and Meritor Wabco.