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Semi-Truck Technology Makes Platooning Possible

Semi-Truck Technology is continously advancing in order to improve efficiency in a variety of ways across the industry. One such advancement is "platooning". While the technology necessary for platooning has been available for quite some time, the difficulty lies in implementing the idea on the road. Several manufacturers have begun actively testing this technology, making it very possible for platooning to become widespread in the near future.

Platooning creates a kind of "train" out of several semi-trucks--two or more trucks are controlled by the lead vehicle with the help of many wireless communication sensors that share information between vehicles. This wireless communication allows the trucks in the platoon to drive very closely together, because when an action occurs in the lead truck (such as braking) the following trucks will automatically engage in the same action.

The main benefit of platooning is significant fuel savings. By driving closely together (the closer the better), aerodynamic drag is drastically reduced and results in more efficient fuel usage. The early stages of research show that the lead truck in a platoon gained up to 5% fuel efficiency while trailing vehicles gain up to 10%.

Peloton Technologies, located in Silicon Valley, has developed a truck platooning system and works closely with Volvo and Peterbilt. This advanced safety system analyzes efficiency by linking trucks through vehicle-to-vehicle communications and radar-based active braking. Peloton has worked with Peterbilt and Denso in an effort to demonstrate this technology through road tests in Detroit and Nevada.

The long-term goal is an effective platooning system that allows drivers the flexibility to join and exit a platoon with relative ease. Volvo expects to integrate the "road train" technology in future trucks to enable drivers to join in a nearby platoon, and also leave when necessary. While joining an ongoing platoon is more difficult, leaving is simple--the truck will allow the driver to take manual control, and once the truck has moved, the gap will be automatically closed by the next truck in the platoon.

While the technology is ready for fleets to begin platooning, several other components need to catch up first. Drivers will require specified training on platooning, and many state laws would need to be adjusted regarding following distances and speeds. Please feel free to contact us to learn more about this and other emerging technology in the trucking industry. 

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