What Is “Platooning” of Big Rig Trucks, and Is It Safe?

Platooning refers to two or more commercial trucks tailgating one another in a line, or platoon. Platooning is a common way for truck companies to save on fuel in states that allow this practice. Many people, however, debate the safety of platooning. The long history of commercial truck accidents in the U.S. and questionable safety standards lead many to think platooning could contribute to collisions. Modern technologies have tried to guarantee the safety of big rig platooning, but accidents still occur each year.

Why Do Truck Companies Support Platooning?

A truck platoon is a single-file line of two or more commercial trucks. When so many trucks ride in a line, it creates an airflow that can increase the fuel efficiency of each truck. The trucks can travel for longer distances without having to refuel – saving the truck company money. For platooning to save on gas, however, the two trucks must stay within 20 to 50 feet of one another. The small gap may pose a safety risk for the two drivers in the platoon. If the front vehicle stops abruptly, the following truck could cause a rear-end collision. To resolve this issue, truck companies use platooning technology.

Modern Platooning Technologies

Wireless safety devices installed in each truck may make platooning safer. Many in the trucking industry say wireless systems are highly responsive and effective at preventing accidents. The system will automatically apply the brakes in the following truck if the leading truck slows down or stops. The system can help eliminate human error and prevent rear-end collisions between two or more platooning big rigs. Big companies such as Mercedes are developing new platooning technologies and currently launching pilot programs in Europe.

One company, Peloton Technologies, is releasing a new two-truck platooning system called PlatoonPro. The company’s CEO promises the technology offers maximum transparency for truck drivers, law enforcement and the public. Peloton Technologies says PlatoonPro works in conjunction with a truck’s existing safety systems and will track important benchmarks. PlatoonPro will use features such as connected braking, camera sensors, video feed, voice communication and cybersecurity for maximum safety.

Safety Concerns Surrounding Platooning

Platooning might make trucks more aerodynamic and fuel-efficient, but at what cost? Trucking accident statistics show a very real risk of rear-end collisions in trucking, even without platooning. Encouraging big rigs to drive closer to one another to save on gas could lead to a higher risk of accidents. Although platooning technologies promise safety, they are not perfect. The technology could malfunction or fail to stop a truck in time to prevent a serious accident. Two trucks colliding could lead to a pileup on the highway.

Another significant safety issue is how smaller passenger vehicles will navigate around a line of two, three or more big rigs driving close together. If a vehicle driver needs to exit the interstate, he or she may not be able to get around a truck platoon. Drivers would have to drive in the far right lane long before their exit to maneuver around the platoon. Many drivers who are unfamiliar with truck platooning may try to dart between two commercial trucks – posing a serious risk of fatal accidents. If the rear truck does not stop fast enough, it could collide with the back of the smaller car or drive up over the vehicle (override accident).

Entering a freeway in the middle of a truck platoon can also be frightening and confusing for a driver. The driver may have to make a fast, unsafe decision to get away from the line of big rigs. Commercial trucks can be intimidating enough without an impenetrable line of them presenting a barrier. Many believe platooning can increase the risk of truck accidents. If you get into a truck accident because of platooning, speak to a San Antonio truck accident lawyer about the possibility of filing a lawsuit against the truck driver or company for negligence.

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