CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly
November 16, 2018
Forward Thinking

Volvo Trucks, FedEx test platooning truck technology

The demo was the first time technology was used on the road in the United States by a major truck manufacturer and a transportation company.

Volvo Trucks North America and FedEx Corp. said yesterday they conducted a demonstration in North Carolina of on-highway truck platooning, the first such demonstration of the technology between a major truck manufacturer and a transportation company in the United States.

The platoon, which operated on N.C. Highway 540, also known as "the Triangle," consisted of three truck drivers in Volvo VNL tractors each pulling double 28-foot trailers. Through wireless vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication technology, the tractors and trailers remained in constant communication. The vehicles traveled at speeds of up to 62 mph while keeping a time gap of 1.5 seconds, maintaining a closer distance than what is typical for on-highway tractors. Staged and unplanned vehicle cut-ins demonstrated how the technology handles common traffic situations.

Platooning links two or more trucks in a convoy using connectivity technology and automated driving support systems. The vehicles automatically maintain a set, close distance between each other when connected for certain parts of a journey.

"Volvo's V2V technology is based on dedicated short-range communication (DSRC), which has proven its capability to perform well in the V2V environment," said Keith Brandis, Volvo Trucks North America's vice president for product planning, in a statement.

Since April, three Volvo Trucks' VNL tractors have been paired with various combinations of FedEx trailers to simulate real-world routes and trailer loads while traveling on N.C. 540. The potential benefits of platooning that are being studied during this collaborative research include faster responses to hard braking while maintaining safety and fuel efficiency, the manufacturer said.

The vehicle-to-vehicle communication system helps reduce the reaction time for braking and enables vehicles to follow one another more closely, automatically matching each other's speed and braking. The advanced technology is meant to serve as an aid, and not a replacement, for professional truck drivers, Volvo Trucks said.

When trucks can drive closely behind one another, fuel efficiency is improved as a result of reduced drag. Drag accounts for up to 25 percent of a truck's total fuel consumption, and the closer the trucks drive to each other the greater the fuel-saving potential. Reducing the traveling distance between vehicles also allows for greater highway utilization, helping alleviate traffic congestion.

N.C. 540, which is near Volvo Trucks' North American headquarters, is one of 10 locations nationwide designated by the U.S. Department of Transportation for demonstrating advanced vehicle technologies like platooning.

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