Tandem Trucking

Something new!

The latest idea for using technology on American highways is the “platooning” of semi tractor-trailer trucks. It may look like tailgating but, the fuel savings are undeniable. The concept is to share computer-controlled speed and braking between the lead truck and those in lock-step following behind, saving fuel.

The company that developed the system, Peloton, says “Drivers choose when to platoon and always retain primary control of their own trucks. They work together to save fuel and manage the changing environment.”

“The lead truck saves 4.5% on fuel on average, and the tractor-trailer behind it saves 10%.”—Peloton

I see two problems.

The Peloton system requires a “clearance” from a centralized computer that analyzes traffic, weather and road conditions before any pairing is made in the real world. That’s one; I’ve recently confirmed that you can’t get a signal everywhere there are roads—limiting the effectiveness of the whole shebang.

And two, with large trucks traveling in tandem, the obstacles presented by these caravans will make it increasingly difficult to enter a highway or to pass them when needed. I’ve written previously about moron drivers who think the vehicles already on the highway need to yield for them when they are entering traffic! What’s going to happen when they run into (pun intended) one of these automated truck trains?

And while the drivers maintain control over steering, they will be relying on the wireless connection between their rig and the lead truck for speed and braking. So, what happens when another radio signal interferes with that link? It’s impossible to avoid, maybe even from the CB radios most truckers have and use.

“Spurious radiation” from nearby transmitters are notorious for causing drop-outs and, sometimes, overpowering the original signal—even by harmonics from other frequencies.

Peloton’s system also transmits a video feed from the leading truck to those following so that they, too, can “see” what’s ahead. This may present a legal issue as most states have laws prohibiting the display of a television screen a driver can view.

Now, you know I love tech and I’m all for saving on gas so, we’re going to have to see how this goes. Eventually, we are going to see self-driving vehicles. With mixed results in the early tests—including some fatalities—I’m not so sure the world is ready to remove the human being from the transportation equation!

I suppose this is better than teenagers piloting flying cars! What do you think?

Happy trails my friends!