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OM in the News: Is Platooning the Next Logistics Big Wave?

August 5, 2018

Big rigs platooning

Ten states in the last year have cleared the way for trucks to travel with as little as 40 feet between them, reports Supply & Demand Chain Executive (July 26, 2018).  Platooning is an emerging vehicle technology in which digitally tethered convoys of 2 or more trucks travel closely together to reduce drag and increase fuel efficiency. The trucks must have a radio-based technology called vehicle-to-vehicle communications and automatic emergency braking systems.

Earlier this year, Volvo Trucks and FedEx teamed up to create a 3-truck convoy on a stretch of North Carolina 540. Volvo estimated that some fleet customers could achieve fuel savings of up to 10% using platooning.

“Automated platooning technology allows trucks to reducing aerodynamic drag, fuel consumption and tailpipe emissions,” said an industry expert. “The business case for the trucking companies is the fuel savings.” Peloton Technologies, a Calif.-based company, claims more than 7% fuel savings by trucks accelerating and braking at close distances. If the trucks can share information about braking activity, direction, speed and potential obstacles they can maintain a closer-than-usual following distance. The platoon also can reduce traffic congestion and react quickly to potential obstacles.

Most state legislatures are voting overwhelmingly in favor of the changes, which focus on loosening regulations concerning the distances driver must maintain between vehicles. In 5 years, it is estimated, the entire country will be on board. Georgia and Tennessee were the first states to fully welcome platooning, passing legislation in 2017.

Classroom discussion questions:

  1. Why is platooning an important logistics issue?
  2. What  is the next logical step in trucking efficiency?
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