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Truck platoon matching paves the way for greener freight transport

In the Truck Platoon Matching project, TNO and thirteen partners are developing a tool to link trucks together electronically. Tools like this are essential for ‘truck platooning’, in which trucks drive in convoy, just a short distance apart. It also holds great promise as a way of making freight transport faster, more productive, safer and more sustainable.
Google Earth, visualisation matching harbour area

‘Truck platooning’ is gaining a lot of traction. If, by communicating with one another, trucks travelling together brake and accelerate at the same time, this can help to avoid traffic jams and save fuel. It will also make freight transport faster, more productive and safer. This technology is expected to reach the market by around 2020. If they are to make the most of this technology, trucks fitted with the necessary equipment must first be able to locate one another. In addition, they have to work out whether linking up will actually pay off. If one partner has to head off in another direction at the first exit then it makes no sense to form a convoy.

Real-time data and complex calculation methods

“The Truck Platoon Matching project is all about using a tool to bring the right trucks together,” says Robbert Janssen, a project manager at TNO. “The trucks must all be travelling in the same direction, of course, but details of their loads must also be available. This is because it is most effective if the truck with the heaviest load drives in front. It is also important for the trucks’ engine power and vehicle level to broadly match, as they have to be able to brake and accelerate at about the same rate.” Even if all of these aspects match, the vehicles’ current locations and speeds will also need to be just right if the convoy is going to work. In short, Truck Platoon Matching requires the availability both of huge amounts of real-time data and of the complex calculation methods required to process it.

Smart planning for trucks

The Truck Platoon Matching project involves two different matching methods. The first method finds matches before the trucks set out, based on existing schedules. The second method, which involves ‘on-the-fly-matching’, makes it possible to find matches while the truck is in transit. If a truck that has already completed half of its journey detects a nearby truck that has roughly the same destination, then the system will link them together. The ultimate aim is to combine both methods into a single cloud-based solution.

Very promising results

The matching methods have been extensively tested using simulation models, and the results are very promising. Getting so many sector representatives to cooperate was key to the project’s success. Several different carriers made data from their on-board computers available and a wide range of logistics experts contributed their knowledge, wishes and requirements.

The follow-up project has already got off the ground.

Development of first prototype

New insights gained during the first project will be integrated into a first prototype of the tool, which will be one step closer to the market. In addition to TNO, the following nine parties participated in the first project: De Jong Grauss Transport, De Rijke Trucking, Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Port of Rotterdam, Ortec, Overbeek Int. Transport, SmartPort Rotterdam, the Dutch Association for Transport and Logistics and VDS Logistics. They will be joined, in the second phase of the project, by Simacan, Route42, Calendar42 and the Traffic Innovation Centre.

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