DHL Supply Chain has voiced its pleasure at being announced as one of Transport Research Laboratory’s (TRL) partners as part of a £8.1m project to trial a convoy of semi-automated trucks along UK motorways towards the end of 2018.
The company will utilise this project to promote its cause to reduce all lorry vehicle emissions by 2050. The £8.1m trial will see TRL, who is the innovation centre arm in transport and mobility of the Department for Transport and Highways England, lead a consortium of partners including DAF Trucks, the UK market leader of heavy goods vehicle (HGV) sales, Ricardo, who worked with TRL to deliver the HGV Platooning feasibility study for the DfT in 2014 as well as DHL.
The on-road trials will form part of regular DHL logistical operations and are expected to take place in 2018, following the successful completion of a rigorous programme of driving simulations, driver training and test track trials over the coming months.
“We are delighted to be part of this ground-breaking trial,” DHL Supply Chain MD Transport Phil Roe told SHD Logistics. “As the global logistics leader, we recently committed to reduce all logistics-related emissions to net zero by the year 2050. This is one of several emerging technologies which we are currently pursuing to become the market leader in green logistics and help our customers achieve their own climate protection targets.”
TRL CEO Rob Wallis commented: “The UK has an unprecedented opportunity to lead the world in trialling connected vehicle platoons in a real-world environment. TRL and its consortium of leading international partners, have the practical and technical knowledge gained from previous projects to understand what is required to put a connected vehicle platoon on to UK roads safely. The team are now taking that expertise and uniquely applying it within live traffic operations.”
TRL Academy Director Richard Cuerden added: “Platooning technology has the potential to deliver a wide range of benefits to all road users. As well as supporting the Department for Transport and Highways England in informing future infrastructure investments and policy decisions, the trials will highlight the services that platooning may offer road users and whether these can safely contribute to a reduction in vehicle emissions, improved journeys and greater economic prosperity.”
Transport Minister Paul Maynard voiced: “We are investing in technology that will improve people’s lives. Advances such as lorry platooning could benefit businesses through cheaper fuel bills and other road users thanks to lower emissions and less congestion. But first we must make sure the technology is safe and works well on our roads, and that’s why we are investing in these trials.”
Highways England Chief Executive Jim O’Sullivan concluded: “We are pleased to be supporting the Government’s ambition for the UK to be a global leader for innovation. The trial has the potential to demonstrate how greater automation of vehicles – in this instance, HGVs – can deliver improvements in safety, better journeys for road users and reduction in vehicle emissions. Investing in this research shows we care about those using our roads, the economy and the environment, and safety will be integral as we take forward this work with TRL.”
One of the transport and logistics sector’s leading training providers, System Group, which trains and supplies qualified drivers for national and international transport and haulage operators, has also given welcome of the move, albeit a cautious one.
System Group director Colin Gordon said: “Our roads have fewer lanes and more junctions closer together than where the trials were conducted, so driver safety on entry and egress are serious issues for consideration.”
The Government has promised to invest more than £8m in funding towards the trials.
"If you're looking at it from a sector point of view, we are keen to see progress in terms of technological development,” said Gordon.
"From a fuel efficiency, reducing congestion point of view we are keen to have those trials to see if they work well. But the safety issue is the biggest concern."