The Department for Transport (DfT) and Highways England has commissioned TRL to lead the first real-world operational trial of platooning vehicles on UK roads.

The £8.1m trial will see TRL lead a consortium of partners including DAF Trucks, the UK market leader of heavy goods vehicle (HGV) sales, Ricardo, who worked with TRL to deliver the HGV Platooning feasibility study for the DfT in 2014 and DHL, the global market leader in the logistics industry.

Platooning involves two or more vehicles connected with ‘vehicle to-vehicle communication’,  allowing them to effectively communicate with each other and operate as a single unit. The lead vehicle takes control of the speed and direction of all the vehicles in the platoon, when the lead vehicle brakes the following vehicles automatically brake with zero reaction time significantly increasing road safety. The constant controlled speed delivers fuel savings and environmental benefits through the reduction of CO2 emissions, whilst the ability to decrease the distance between vehicles increases road network capacity.

Applying experience gained in platooning projects in Europe and the USA, the project will collect information and independently evaluate heavy vehicle platooning under real-world operational conditions. Trials will be tailored to the unique requirements of UK roads and will collate the evidence required to understand issues such as fuel efficiency and reduced emissions, safety, acceptance by drivers and other road users, implications for future infrastructure, and the commercial case for adoption.

The on-road trials will form part of regular DHL logistical operations and are expected to take place in 2018, following the successful completion of a rigorous programme of driving simulations, driver training and test track trials over the coming months.

Project partners:

  • TRL: The overall project lead and research partner, responsible for project and risk management.
  • DAF: OEM partner and UK market leader for commercial trucks, responsible for supplying vehicles to be used in the project.
  • Ricardo: Technology partner and global engineering, strategic and environmental consultancy.
  • DHL: Leading logistics provider in the UK, will be providing drivers and freight deliveries for the trials.
  • Transport Systems Catapult: Research partner, will contribute to technical trial design and data analysis.
  • Millbrook: Test partner, will provide the test track facilities for the off-road platoon testing.
  • TNO: Currently leading the Dutch Truck Platooning Trials and will provide reciprocal representation on both the UK and Dutch Advisory Groups.
  • Costain: A strategic partner to Highway England with in-depth knowledge of the strategic road network.
  • Apollo Vehicle Safety: Research partner, will provide knowledge and expertise on vehicle safety.


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