‘We created gold. Now let’s make it a business case.’

April 19, 2016

The 200 participants at the 7 April Conference in Amsterdam’s RAI Elicium Centre had a clear goal: harvesting successes scored, and lessons learnt from the European Truck Platooning Challenge 2016, while presenting the forward vision on truck platooning.

The Conference opened with a showing of The creation of the Truck Platooning Challenge 2016.

In his opening address André van Lammeren (Rijkswaterstaat) noted that the Challenge was spearheading a movement. ‘Obviously, it’s a great feeling for all of us to look back at the Challenge. I’m talking about the massive interest in this project shown by governments, industry, road authorities and operators, knowledge institutes and suppliers of logistics services - plus the commitment they showed, as a community, and the way they collected knowledge and experience. But today is about looking forward.’

From idea to reality

Chaired by Ruud Splitthoff of Rijkswaterstaat the initial discussions involved Dirk-Jan de Bruijn (Rijkswaterstaat), Erik Jonnaert (ACEA) and Steve Phillips (CEDR) and covered the road from concept to realisation. De Bruijn: ‘Over the past year we built up a team structure, a coalition of the willing, based on the idea of co-creation being decisive for the future of truck platooning.’ Phillips: ‘Getting several players involved created synergy.’ Jonnaert backed this statement: ‘Sure enough, competition is good for innovation, but this joint effort was a major achievement in any language. We successfully moved truck platooning up to the next step of the innovation ladder.’

De Bruijn added: ‘The consequences of truck platooning for, say, the industry and infrastructure were a start. But above all it was about the first ever cross-border truck platooning – where we encountered the mix of legislation and regulation between countries.’ Jonnaert: ‘Having gained this experience we can now work towards a single political agenda for automated and connected driving; harmonised legislation and regulation, while realising truck platooning jointly with market parties.’

The broader perspective

Chaired by Carlo van de Weijer (TU Eindhoven) discussions then moved on to the broader perspective of truck platooning and follow-up actions. Ian Thomson (Highways England) opened with a review of tests around truck platooning in the UK. The next speaker, Raimo Tapio (Finnish Transport Agency), looked at the Aurora project. ‘This major Finnish project focuses on automated driving, digital transport infrastructure, intelligent infrastructure asset management and mobility-as-a-service. One interesting element of the project is Snowbox, an arctic testing site for intelligent transport.

Florien van der Windt (Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment) talked about truck platooning as a dot on the horizon. ‘Now, we need to work together to harmonise European legislation and regulation. The first steps here were taken at the Informal Transport Council on 14 April in Amsterdam.’ Antony Lagrange (European Commission) pointed to the legal implications of truck platooning for the automotive industry and the harmonisation of approval of vehicle types.  Henriette van Eijl (European Commission) discussed the way in which truck platooning can be systematically deployed in smart city mobility and urban planning with a view to aspects including improved accessibility and last-mile deliveries.

Liam Breslin (European Commission) gave a presentation on research and innovation in automated road transport. Among other things he stated that over the past ten years the European Commission has co-financed 35 projects in the field of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems, Connectivity and Automated Driving. This represents a total of around € 240 million. According to Breslin these projects made a substantial contribution to the advance of technology in the area of automated and connected driving. ‘Truck platooning will be realised sooner than we think’, said an optimistic Breslin.

Lastly, Kees Verweij (Buck Consultants International) made a presentation on potential for truck platooning in the logistics sector. ‘What we’ve done has created awareness. We talked with several major transport companies and they are interested in discussing the operationalisation of truck platooning.’

Inspiration session 1: Truck platooning as a future logistics concept

The session featured a ‘logistics business case’ presented by Lóri Tavasszy (TU Delft), who explained how truck platooning can contribute to more efficient logistic processes. Tavasszy pointed to the opportunities offered by reduced fuel consumption and the more efficient planning of container terminals. He also highlighted increased driver productivity: with a ‘single truck case’ the range is 720 kilometres a day, but with a ‘co-operative case’ you get 960 kilometres, representing a 30% boost in productivity.

Inspiration session 2: The future role of the road authority in road transport

Four propositions were taken as the basis for the discussions on the role to be taken by the road authority in stimulating truck platooning. The conclusion was that road authorities need to sit ‘in the same room’ as market parties, protecting themselves against counterproductive forces. Dialogue is crucial here. Moreover, the road authority needs to be an enabler, rather than a commanding force. According to Steven Shladover (University of California, Berkeley) you need a ‘champion’ to take the lead in embedding the concept of platooning, policy-wise. In the Dutch situation that could be the minister. The market can then take the concept further along the road. Another point raised was whether truck platooning is a must or simply nice to have around. The conclusion here was that truck platooning is part of the solution towards the more efficient, sustainable and safer transportation of freight. This concept forms part of a palette of options for multi-modal transport.

Inspiration session 3: Acceptance by other road users and truck drivers

Should a truck platoon be clearly marked as such and should the truck driver know the ICT system inside-out? Awareness of a truck platoon will allow other road users to anticipate. A dynamic system – platoon recognition on and off – can help here. Meanwhile, for the drivers an ICT system needs to be as easy as an iPhone: no ICT knowledge is required, but they do need to know precisely how to use the system. And, at the end of the day, if truck platooning is to be a success, we have to listen to society’s questions and wishes, in order to tweak the concept where required.

Inspiration session 4: Harmonisation of legislation / exemption procedures

Arjan van Vliet (RDW) gave a short presentation on exemption procedures in the various countries. Loes Aarts (Rijkswaterstaat) gave a presentation on barriers in the routes to be driven, and on exemptions in Denmark and Germany. She also discussed the Code of Practice, introduced by the Netherlands as a tailor-made attachment for each test. Kristof Rombaut (Flemish Ministry of Mobility and Public Works) focused on the exemption procedures in Flanders. In response to the presentations, participants then discussed the viability of cross border truck platooning, and the role of the European Commission (regulation or free market processes). Conclusion: harmonisation of legislation is necessary. A balance is needed between safety and legislation, and this should be possible, given the store of information collected during the Challenge.

Truck Platooning Vision 2025

The conference closed with the presentation of the Truck Platooning Vision 2025 by Walther Ploos van Amstel (Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences). Among other things he focused on the ongoing growth of European transport volumes and the need to reduce our logistic footprint. Ploos van Amstel indicated that truck platooning offers potential for innovation of logistic chains, if and when there is fine-tuning of logistic planning, with data being shared. Next, he led the discussion on the vision – including the call for real-life testing, answers to open questions, follow-up steps and governance. The overall atmosphere was optimistic and as one participant remarked: ‘Truck platooning is applicable, affordable and available. Let’s prove it’s possible.’

This was followed by the animated film Vision Truck Platooning 2025: Creating Next Generation Mobility. Lastly Erik Jonnaert (ACEA), Steve Phillips (CEDR), Marc Billiet (IRU), Servi Beckers (EReg), Paul Schockmel (Clepa) and Godfried Smit (ESC) signed a declaration of joint commitment to truck platooning.