Modified: November 1, 2022

What Is “Platooning” of Big Rig Trucks?

Elon Musk has always been at the center of autonomous technology, allowing many new industries to explore new autonomous technology and implement it in their business processes. What about truck accidents and bunching up of trucks?

Convoy of big rig trucks in the snow

Concerned About Platooning of Big Rigs?

We cover the latest news from a legal perspective.

Today, trucking companies and lobbyists favor autonomous technology in their line of work, giving rise to the term “platooning.”

Imagine a line of trucks on an interstate highway, all following the lead truck using wireless technology. Essentially, a single lead driver controls an entire convoy of trucks. With the trucking industry backing this idea up, multiple big-rig trucks on the highway could soon become a common sight.

But is this a good thing? Ehline Law and our personal injury lawyers have helped injured victims protect their rights and recover compensation from trucking companies for the damages.

With a history of accidents recorded in the trucking industry in the country, is it a viable option to have multiple trucks following a single lead truck?

Let’s explore platooning, how it can raise some safety concerns, and why trucking companies are pushing for this technological change.

What Is Truck Platooning?

Truck platooning is syncing multiple big-rig trucks into a single convoy through wireless technology, adaptive cruise control, and automated systems. This system ensures that all the trucks travel incredibly close to each other, about 20 to 50 feet, in a line formation following a single lead truck. The truck following mimics the driving pattern or the actions of the lead truck.

When the leader truck brakes, the system sends a wireless message (five times faster than a human response) to the other trucks following closely behind. The other trucks will also brake and slow down upon receiving the signal.

There are human truck drivers in the trucks following the lead truck to ensure complete control in case of a failure of autonomous technology. However, since autonomous systems are on board, the other truck drivers can multi-task by calling people and finishing their existing tasks.

This is what the European Automobile Manufacturers (ACEA) are saying about truck platooning. Currently, Pennsylvania is testing truck platooning on the highways. Several vehicle manufacturers are also testing the technology in Europe to demonstrate the safety of such systems in the hopes of making it easier to receive regulatory approval in the United States.

Trucking Companies Lobbying for Truck Platooning For Fuel Efficiency?

The supporting argument for pushing for truck platooning is all about fuel efficiency. Since all the trucks closely follow each other, they experience less drag, lowering fuel consumption and fuel costs. Trucks can travel longer distances without having to stop for refueling, helping save time and ensure quicker deliveries.

Platooning would also reduce traffic jams. With quicker and more efficient deliveries and substantial fuel savings, trucking companies are pushing for regulatory approval, but safety concerns need addressing first.

Safety Concerns Around Platooning

Technology Malfunction Can Cause Accidents

According to recent accident statistics, trucks are more prone to rear collisions, and implementing platooning trucks could further increase the risk. Encouraging trucks to closely follow each other for fuel savings could lead to increased accidents.

Companies working on truck platooning technology promise extreme safety; however, we must remember that these technologies are not perfect. We’ve witnessed reports of autonomous vehicles crashing into pedestrians due to failing sensors, and history does repeat itself. These technologies are relatively new, and a malfunction of such technologies can lead to serious accidents.

Drivers who do not have enough training on how to use platooning can cause devastating accidents when driving between two commercial trucks.

Difficult to Navigate Around Lead Truck and Others for Smaller Vehicles

Since the semi-trucks will closely follow the lead truck, it may create an obstacle for smaller vehicles. With more than three trucks lined up, cars may find it challenging to navigate around the line of trucks, especially if they’re looking to exit the interstate. To take an exit, a driver must be in the right lane before they make the turn to maneuver around the platoon.

Other drivers entering the freeway in the middle of a truck platoon may find themselves confused or frightened, resulting in a fast and unsafe decision that could potentially risk their lives. Driving around commercial trucks or nearby is scary enough, but a line of trucks traveling at a constant speed can be a huge barrier to overcome for many drivers.

The Behavior of Truck Drivers

You may think that the behavior of other drivers on the road may be a cause for concern, but the behavior of truck drivers is in the limelight. It is a commonly known fact that the trucking industry in the United States has a poor track record when prioritizing safety and following industry regulations.

Accidents and deadly truck crashes have been on the rise year on year since 2007. On top of that, due to the recent shortage of truck drivers, most trucking companies are hiring inexperienced drivers to shorten the gap. The behavior of trucking companies and inexperienced drivers poses a severe concern to other drivers on the road.

Fatigue Among Truck Drivers

Drowsy driving has become a massive problem in this country. Although regulations dictate the working hours for a trucker, many trucking companies force their drivers to work overtime, resulting in fatigue. A combination of exhaustion and driving is a lousy concoction that can lead to dire consequences.

Truck platooning is all about mimicking the leader truck, which raises a question: why would you risk compounding an inexperienced fatigued driver’s mistakes and judgment errors? Imagine the lead driver making a vast judgment error, causing all trucks to follow. Who knows the consequences of multiple big rig trucks getting involved in an accident? A traffic pileup on the highway would be a minor worry in such a situation.

Conclusion About Platooning and Truck Convoys

Although there is an argument in support of truck platooning that focuses on achieving freight efficiency, the idea of truck platooning should be left on the drawing board until the trucking industry can address the trucker shortages and improve poor hiring and training processes, and ensure a superior safety record.

If you or your loved ones received injuries from a truck collision. Contact us at (213) 596 9642 for a free consultation with our expert personal injury attorneys today!

Top Notch American Injury Lawyer, Michael Ehline

Michael Ehline

Michael is a managing partner at the nationwide Ehline Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC. He’s an inactive Marine and became a lawyer in the California State Bar Law Office Study Program, later receiving his J.D. from UWLA School of Law. Michael has won some of the world’s largest motorcycle accident settlements.

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