This was apparent during the 17 February Expert session in Utrecht’s LEF Future center. The day was devoted to making an inventory of key issues around truck platooning, while putting these in perspective, and getting truck platooning literally on the road during the next several years.
In his introduction Andre van Lammeren of Rijkswaterstaat, urged the around 35 people present to ask as many question as possible: ‘That will show us the pace of given developments and their impact.’ Tom Alkim, also of Rijkswaterstaat, called for every effort towards a shared perspective for truck platooning.
Logistics sector: a spread of focus areas
Experts from the logistics sector, including Ahold, Jumbo and Vos Logistics, exchanged ideas during the morning session. The consequences of truck platooning for the logistics sector were captured in a number of catchwords. This yielded priority focus areas including ‘business case’, ‘technology’ and ‘human factor’.
Robbert Janssen of TNO followed up with a technical briefing on truck platooning. Notable here was that experts from the logistics sector not only highlighted return on investment as a reason to get in early, but also reduction of CO2 emissions and sustainability. Meanwhile Jannie van Andel of Ahold expressed the need for an overarching business model as a guiding light. In her opinion too many questions remain open, like how will costs be attributed? After all, the first truck uses more fuel than the followers.
Fuel consumption per freight ton
Following on from a brainstorming session in small groups, Jonas Gadolin of Volvo explained that, rather than charging on the basis of fuel costs per kilometre, his company uses the formula of fuel costs to move one ton one kilometre. Volvo sees truck platooning as part of the evolution of freight transport by road. The lowest level of fuel consumption per ton carried comes with long vehicles, virtually connected.
This was followed by Kees Verweij of Buck Consultants International, who gave a presentation on the possible impact of truck platooning on the logistics sector. He emphasised that the effect of truck platooning differs in line with the type of load carried, volume and frequency. To take an example, truck platooning can pan out differently when the freight is flowers, rather than containers. Given the major volumes involved, he stressed the potential success of transport to and from sea ports. ‘This is particularly the case now that the Rotterdam-Arnhem and Rotterdam-Venlo corridors have been designated for development into the most sustainable corridors in Europe. A concept like truck platooning slots in very neatly here.’
Towards a shared narrative
During the plenary discussion at the end of the morning session Jannie van Andel concluded that we need to work towards a shared narrative: ‘The fact is that we have to have believers’. Jack Martens of DAF added that: ‘The thinking process is already underway and the technology is ripe for it. Now is the time for legislation/regulation and other societal aspects around truck platooning to follow.’
With common interest groups like ANWB and FNV, during the course of the afternoon attention focused on the societal impact of truck platooning. Tom Alkim’s presentation on this raised aspects including driving behaviour, legislation/regulation, driving/rest periods and the effect on the infrastructure. Alkim’s presentation heralded a brainstorm session, mainly on ‘determining factors that influence perception of truck platoons by truck drivers and other road users’. Small groups were formed to seek answers. This combination of ’grey cells’ produced a comprehensive picture of crucial factors for the admission of truck platooning.
Driver assistance technology
The programme closed with presentations by Egon Groen (FNV) and Chris Hottentot (ANWB). Groen said that truck drivers are concerned about aspects including employment, driving/rest periods and on-board technology. Discussions around this presentation led to the significant conclusion that truck platooning is about driver assistance technology rather than robotics. It was also agreed that, as well as talking about the drivers, a dialogue was needed. Chris Hottentot discussed the consequences of truck platooning for other road users, for instance joining and exiting the highway, and for visibility of signage.
The entire Expert meeting was marked by high quality discussions featuring a wide range of issues around truck platooning. This valuable gathering yielded many insights into the future of truck platooning.