When I posted video of the Volvo Trucks North America truck platooning demonstration in North Carolina on social media, more than one person commented that the trucks didn’t look any closer than the rigs already run on highways every day without the benefit of this technology. And right there is an important thing to consider when it comes to truck safety.
The Volvo platoon was set up for a 1.5-second following distance, or about 132 feet at 60 mph. This is a larger gap than some other platooning demonstrations have highlighted and perhaps would not reap the same type of fuel economy that testing so far has shown for platoons where the following distance is more like 50 feet.
But Volvo, and FedEx Freight, which it’s collaborating with, emphasized that their primary goal with this project was safety.
The platooning system uses an extra radar sensor that’s programmed to recognize the platooning truck ahead, sophisticated software algorithms, and Dedicated Short-Range Communication (DSRC) radio for vehicle-to-vehicle communications. That V2V connection means the following trucks in the platoon can react much more quickly than relying just on radar (or a driver) detecting the slowing truck in front.
And that’s important, because The Large Truck Crash Causation Study reported that 5% of truck crashes occurred when the commercial motor vehicle driver was following the lead vehicle too closely.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration says for CMVs traveling below 40 mph, there should be at least one second of following distance for every 10 feet of vehicle length. For a typical tractor-trailer, this results in 4 seconds between you and the leading vehicle. For speeds over 40 mph, you should leave one additional second. That’s WAY more than the 1.5 seconds in the Volvo platooning test.
While the latest collision mitigation systems (like the Volvo Active Driver Assist that is standard equipment on new Volvo VNR and VNL series trucks), adaptive cruise control, and other technologies currently available can help prevent following-distance-related crashes, the vehicle-to-vehicle communication used in platooning could help even more.
Are your drivers following too close?
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