The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reports that over 3,800 fatal truck crashes occurred in the U.S. in 2013. That same year, around 5,657,000 non-fatal truck collisions also took place, 69,000 of which involved injuries of some kind. According to ABC News, some companies believe that truck platooning, a new technology that is just a few years away from implementation, may help reduce the prevalence of these kinds of accidents while boosting fuel economy and revenue.
ABC News states that truck platooning occurs when two or more trucks drive very closely, sharing communications and data to synchronize acceleration and braking so the vehicles act together instead of separately. To make this possible, information on driving environments, road conditions and speed are sent to a central data processing center for analysis. Instructions are then sent back to the trucks to control their platooning actions. This includes how much distance remains between each vehicle, their maximum speeds, and whether or not it is even safe for the trucks to platoon at that time. Each truck retains a driver during platooning, and they remain fully in control of the vehicle at all times.
The makers of the technology claim that it improves safety by removing the human element from the equation. When human perception and reaction times are no longer relevant, trucks can slow and react to crash conditions almost immediately. This means that platooned trucks can begin to slow and stop around 100 feet sooner than regular vehicles.
Some of the technologies that make this possible are already present on thousands of tractor trailers. They include assistive braking technologies and forward-looking radar systems that first detect a problem and then automatically begin to slow the vehicle. Trucking companies are hopeful that when these systems are used en masse by platoons, it will further reduce the number of accidents seen on the nation’s roadways.