When you consider the trials a truck driver must overcome on the average job, it's no wonder why the industry has been in the midst of a labor shortage. Even if trucking wasn't one of the most dangerous occupations, it involves long, lonely hours spent squeezed into a cab. Deadlines aren't lenient, and the job requires enough attention that you can't pass time doing something else. But all labor is worthy of respect, appreciation, and gratitude; the trucker's quality of life should be improved, and truck platooning offers a roadmap to a blue horizon.
Upfront, platooning does not replace trucks with driverless vehicles, nor is it simply a stepping-stone to full autonomy. It's more valuable to think of platooning as a strategy, although it is only made possible through advances in connected driving.
Platooning means multiple trucks, guided by the lead vehicle's driver, can safely follow each other in close proximity, like the cars on a train. The connected fleet can accelerate, break, and turn in unison while semi-autonomous features in the lead truck reduces the possibility of human error. And while only the lead vehicle is in control of the platoon, the other trucks will also contain drivers so that they can break from the chain to complete their own scheduled deliveries.
Besides increased safety, platooning offers both trucking companies and their drivers many benefits. By allowing trucks to drive closer together, platooning decreases aerodynamic drag as well as the amount of space the fleet takes up on a road, cutting fuel costs . Less wind-resistance combines with a more constant speed to lower emissions by over 60% - generating around 7% in savings.
Platooning also improves the trucker's experience. Drivers in trailing trucks should feel comfortable letting the tech take over, allowing them to read a book or take a nap. Furthermore, platoons could work in shifts as the lead driver, saving time on the road and ensuring they hit their ETAs.
As the technology improves, platooning could fundamentally transform the trucking industry. Drivers may be able to move out of the cab entirely and into an office, monitoring and operating their vehicles remotely - just like drone pilots. And multiple drivers could work out of the same room, reducing loneliness.
It is easy for people of certain occupations to feel threatened by technology, especially something as powerful as autonomous vehicles. Implemented correctly, platooning won't replace people – it will just their jobs a lot more enjoyable and efficient.
To read more about platooning, download our e-book, Ahead of the Pack, and for tools to help you find the smartest way to improve your shipping fleets, check out the variety of solutions we have on offer.
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