The newest advance to make the UK news concerning transport and logistics recently is the story of self-driving trucks, that are predicted to make it to major UK roads in 2018 following the governments funding of £8.1 million to this scheme.

This will operate by convoys of 3 trucks having both acceleration and braking directed wirelessly by the leading vehicle, known as platooning, which will still be controlled by a human driver, while the two following trucks will have drivers present for steering only. These vehicles will be travelling first on test-tracks to ensure the safety level is completely satisfactory, then the next step that will occur is the convoys moving onto genuine UK motorways. Which location this takes place in will be decided carefully based upon: Traffic patterns, exits and entries in the area.

The initial worry surrounding this scheme for us is the element of safety for other drivers. Self-driving lorries will be moving in a close-knit formation which means some road signs may be obscured or exits may be difficult to access. The UK has some of the busiest roads in Europe and self-driving lorries could restrict motorway departures for real drivers. The British Motoring Association president, Edmund King, claims that convoys like this are more likely to work in America where the freeways stretch for much longer than our motorways.

However, the benefits of this project are not to be ignored. The two trucks behind the lead vehicle respond instantly to fluctuations in speed and can travel quite close together as they are semi-automated, reducing congestion. Economically, businesses like ourselves would be able to lower our fuel costs and reach destinations in a shorter space of time due to less congestion. Environmentally, fuel emissions will be lowered by 4-10% as shown by trials carried out by the Transport Research Laboratory. The UK’s Transport Minister, Paul Maynard, agrees that haulage companies will save from reduced fuel consumption and the environment will benefit from reduced fuel emissions.

There are many perspectives on the ‘self-driving’ truck concept, but there is no doubt this futuristic idea will allow the UK to become the top competitor within the road freight industry as we lead the world in trialling connected vehicles in a real-world environment. What do you think?…