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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Truck Platooning

 Develop truck platooning technology and conduct an inservice field operational test to assess the impacts in a real operational environment.

"Image of a platoon, or line, of three large U.S. Department of Transportation semi-trucks drive on a congested highway."

Truck platooning allows trucks to follow each other closely, thereby reducing air drag and improving fuel economy. Platooning also has the potential to increase vehicle capacity on our highways, particularly along freight corridors. A combination of production safety systems and connected vehicle technology allows trucks to closely follow each other in a safe manner by enabling the trucks to continuously communicate and coordinate travel with other trucks in close proximity. Truck platooning deployed across the country is expected to improve national freight movement and the national economy.

In past and current Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) projects, the trucks are partially automated, meaning that the vehicles control the coordinated speeds and braking with the lead vehicles in the platoons, but the drivers maintain steering control at all times. The drivers are expected to continuously monitor the driving situation to be ready to assume full control of the vehicles at any time. This is a driver assistance system at the SAE J3016 Level 1 automation.

With truck platooning deployment and operations, the following benefits are expected:

  • Promote technology innovation – Truck platooning uses commercially available adaptive cruise control and collision avoidance systems as key system components; it adds vehicle‐to‐vehicle communications to enable cooperative adaptive cruise control (CACC); and it showcases connected vehicle technology for enhanced stability and responsiveness of truck platooning operations.
  • Technology acceptance/readiness – FHWA shares knowledge with stakeholders (State, local, and other organizations), prepares private industry/commercial operators, and informs the public of benefits and limitations of the technology.
  • Improved throughput, mobility, and road efficiency – Vehicle connectivity enables smoother and closer following-truck movement.
  • Improved fuel savings and reduced greenhouse gas emissions – Early results indicate up to seven to 10 percent fuel savings for following trucks.
  • Reduced operating costs for the commercial freight industry – Deployment at scale will have significant national economic benefits, including potential driver workload reductions and improved driving comfort

Notable FHWA Activities and Projects

Exploratory Advanced Research Program Projects in 2016 through 2019
FHWA’s Exploratory Advanced Research (EAR) Program pursued research that helps alleviate the looming problem posed by increasing demand for highway freight capacity by allowing long-distance trucks to travel together more efficiently. The research projects, Partial Automation for Truck Platooning and Cooperative Adaptive Cruise Control, were conducted at Auburn University (in partnership with industry organizations and at the University of California, Berkeley’s Partners for Advanced Transportation Technology program). These projects developed technology and strategies that allow two and three trucks to travel closely together in “platoons” using advanced sensors and connected vehicle technologies to maximize efficiencies. The project fact sheet provides more detailed information.

Partially Automated Truck Platooning Demonstration
A truck platooning demonstration held in September 2017 showcased the truck platooning system developed from the University of California EAR project on the I–66 Corridor in northern Virginia. Heavy trucks followed each other using automated speed and spacing controls. The platooning is based on the CACC System technology as part of the U.S. Department of Transportation's ongoing efforts to use innovative technologies to improve the efficiency of the Nation's freight transportation network. Below is a video of the demonstration.

Truck Platooning Early Deployment Assessment from 2018 to Present
To further advance truck platooning research, and building on the accomplishments of the EAR projects, FHWA and Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office have been pursuing the Truck Platooning Early Deployment Assessment project since August 2018. The goals of this project are to understand truck platooning in real‐world operations (i.e., real fleet operators carrying real loads), to assess benefits and impacts across key areas of interest, and to inform the future planning and decisions of State/local departments of transportation.

The project is being conducted in two distinct phases: 

  • Phase 1 was conducted to develop a concept and proposal that sets the stage for a field operational test of a commercial vehicle platooning deployment. Specific tasks conducted during Phase 1 included developing an innovative and synergistic truck platooning pilot deployment concept, building partnerships among stakeholders, and preparing a comprehensive deployment, test, and evaluation plan. Phase 1 was completed in December 2019.
  • Phase 2 is currently being conducted to get the truck platooning system enhanced and ready, to conduct a year-long field operational test, and to perform analysis and evaluation of the collected data. The presentation given at the Talking Freight meeting in January 2021 provides a summary of this project. 

Human Factors for Truck Platooning
The FHWA Office of Safety Research and Development is conducting the Human Factors for Truck Platooning project to investigate the impact on and the response behavior of vehicles around platooning trucks. This project uses both a sign lab study and a driving simulator to collect driver-behavior data. 

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